TULALIP — Two new sentinels now stand outside the doors of the Tulalip Tribes administration building.
On a cold and rainy Monday morning, about 50 people gathered for the unveiling of two story poles, the product of years of work by Tulalip master carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison.
The pole on the left side of the building’s entrance features an orca, as seen from above, with a human face. The pole on the right shows a diver swimming through the tentacles of a giant octopus.
Both were carved from the trunk of a 140-foot red cedar that blew down some years ago near Darrington, Gobin said.
Story poles currently standing outside the Tulalip Resort &Casino came from the same tree, Madison said.
Gobin carved the orca pole and Madison the octopus pole.
“We’re killer whale people,” Gobin said. “The person up on top is our spirit of the whale.”
Referring to the omnipresent Tulalip logo of an orca, he added: “I wanted to represent that in a way different than you normally see.”
He added eagle motifs on the back side of the pole in honor of the eagles that watched over tribal gatherings from trees rising above at the old administration building.
Madison’s octopus includes a carved “diving rock” incorporated into the pole.
“My grandfather used to tell me about a different kind of power, water power,” Madison said.
“We’d jump off canoes with a diving rock. … We’d dive down to get our water power to protect us,” he said.
The unveiling before tribal board members, staff and guests started with a prayer by board member Marie Zackuse and song and drumming led by Glen Gobin, Joe Gobin’s brother and the vice-chairman of the tribe.
Then the wraps were taken off the poles, to cheers from the crowd.
“This all started for me with my grandfather, Frank Madison, who taught me everything I know,” Madison said to the crowd.
“He’d be very proud of us putting all our culture into all our buildings,” he said.
Flanked by his two sons, Madison stressed the importance of passing along the stories and traditions of tribal elders.
“As my grandfather would say, we’re not petrified, we’re still alive,” Madison said.
That’s the message for the next generation as well, he said: “Keep us alive.”
The poles were installed on cement stands Friday night and wrapped until Monday morning.
“As we came into the building we’ve been missing these pieces,” Glen Gobin said. “It says who the Snohomish people are, who the Tulalip people are.”
Five children from Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School finished the ceremony with a song, led by fourth-grader Image Enick, a nine-year-old with a powerful voice.
“This is what it’s all about, going full-circle and remembering who we are as Indian people,” said Chelsea Craig, a cultural specialist at the school.
Tulalip chairman Mel Sheldon Jr. thanked everyone for coming and the artists for their work. “Today we have our new story poles to welcome us,” Sheldon said.
“We come together so we can remember and not forget,” he said. “I hope we remember this day for a long time.”
Then he ushered everyone back inside to return to work.
Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.
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