Gayle Jones leads a praryer during a ceremony for the healing pole students spent the last year carving along with Tulalip carver James Madison at Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Gayle Jones leads a praryer during a ceremony for the healing pole students spent the last year carving along with Tulalip carver James Madison at Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

‘A source of healing’: Archbishop Murphy unveils Coast Salish healing pole

“I’m happy to have representation of my culture here at AMHS being one out of 15 Native American students,” said Amaya Hernandez.

EVERETT — For a year, Archbishop Murphy High School students, led by Tulalip woodcarver James Madison, chipped away at a 4,000-pound redwood log, unveiling a wildcat — the school’s mascot — emerging from a forest.

Now, the new totem pole stands on the grounds of Archbishop Murphy southeast of Everett as a beacon of healing, community and culture.

Students and faculty, joined by members of the Tulalip Tribes, gathered Wednesday on the school’s football field to celebrate the pole’s completion.

“The goal of this project was to provide a source of healing while rebuilding and strengthening our community from all of the disruption that was caused to schools throughout the pandemic,” said Principal Alicia Mitchell.

Tulalip students and fellow tribal members twirled in traditional dress, while singing and playing drums. They sang blessing songs passed down from older generations, Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin said.

“I’m happy to have representation of my culture here at AMHS being one out of 15 Native American students here,” student Amaya Hernandez said. “It makes me proud that we have made such a big impact to campus.”

The project dates to 2021, when staff wanted to unite students after months of isolation, Mitchell said.

Staff called Madison, whose children attend Archbishop Murphy and who also volunteers as one of the school’s football coaches.

“2020 was a very dark place for a lot of people,” Madison said. “We all got through it, and we all got through it together. I think that’s the lesson here.”

Madison, an artist and master woodcarver, has pieces displayed throughout the state, from museums in Seattle to his newest piece of Coast Salish art encircling the Everett Municipal Building.

Community donors funded the healing pole, with help from a $2,000 grant from the Snohomish County Arts Commission.

Ancestors of Tulalip tribal members have inhabited Snohomish County and surrounding areas for many centuries.

“There’s such a long history of Native Americans being underrepresented and misrepresented throughout history,” Mitchell said. “… To be able to provide this source of positive representation and an opportunity to share their culture, … it’s just a powerful way to help us continue to heal.”

Creating art together is a way to not only connect cultures, but to honor tribal heritage through education, she said.

“This land was our land,” Madison said. “We gathered here, we grew up here, we hunted here, we fished around here. All these lands are my people’s property and lands. You guys need to think about that for a while. To be able to create something that is on (Indigenous) property is very important to me, to keep our culture alive.”

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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