TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes marked the first day of spring last week by dedicating a new medicine wheel garden and honoring a longtime friend.
On the grounds of the Karen I. Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic, the tribes prepared a seat for Father Pat Twohy, who was the pastor at St. Anne’s Catholic Church on the Tulalip reservation for many years.
Now ministering to urban Indians through the Chief Seattle Club in downtown Seattle, Twohy was welcomed by a crowd of tribal members and staff.
While Jennie Fryberg, the clinic manager, read from the Bible, tribal elder Dale Jones sat the 77-year-old priest down and washed his feet as a symbol of servanthood. He was then given a pair of beaded moccasins.
Twohy was so moved he could only thank them quietly, his voice nearly lost in the wind.
“I was pretty much in the moment, pretty well overwhelmed,” Twohy said later. “I wanted just to thank them for their endless kindness and their generosity. And to encourage them always to be strong and walk a beautiful road together, a road of light that’s been handed down to them by their ancestors.”
Twohy said he thought he was just coming to bless the medicine wheel garden, and was then taken by surprise by the show of respect he was given.
“It turned out to be something amazing for me. The people always surprise me in so many ways,” Twohy said.
“We also want to thank Father Pat for all his work,” Fryberg said. “We are so thankful to have him in our lives and we just want to bless him for today.”
The new garden, with planters built by the students in the tribe’s construction trades program, is in the shape of a wheel divided into four quadrants.
Each quarter represents one of the cardinal directions, and also one of the four aspects of native health: body, mind, spirit and emotion.
Roni Leahy, the diabetes program coordinator, said that each quadrant was planted with sacred plants that symbolize those aspects: cedar, kinnikinnick and tobacco, sage and sweet grass.
The medicine wheel can also be used as a teaching aid, she said.
“It opens the door to talk about topics that you could go to your doctor and talk about,” Leahy said. “The garden ends up being a place where you can do that.”
Twohy was invited to bless the wheel on the first day of spring, and has been invited to come back on the first day of summer, fall and winter for the same purposes.
Twohy’s teachings on spiritual matters will complement those of doctors and others who talk with patients about their physical, mental and emotional health, Leahy said.
Fryberg said that the medicine wheel was part of a long-held dream that her mother, former clinic administrator Karen Fryberg, had to combine all tribal health functions under one roof as part of serving patients in a more holistic manner.
Those include the pharmacy, the behavioral health clinic, diabetes clinic and other health functions.
“That was a vision a long time ago when we first started, to get that vision back and to have a space for everybody,” Fryberg said.
“Our main goal is to serve that whole patient,” Fryberg said, whether it’s through Behavioral Health Services, the diabetes clinic, the dental clinic or the pharmacy. The medicine wheel symbolically represents that unity of service.
“This shows that this is the direction our people are going in,” she said.