Welcome to Indian Country. Over 35% of the population of West Jefferson County is American Indian. The Hoh Tribe and the Queets Tribe are the constituent parts. So, when a friend of mine told me that there would be a dedication for a new totem pole to be placed in front of the new gym facility in Lapush, I was pumped. The pole was carved in Alaska by David Boxley. The carver's family and their village dancers were going to be part of a blessing ceremony at the site in LaPush, the Quilleute Village,16 miles west of Forks. The A-Ka-lat center will also house the huge dinner that will follow the dedication. Six hundred people watched or participated as two Alaskan groups took turns drumming and singing in preparation for the "giving" of the totem to the Quilleute People.
Their harmonies were ethereal. And, when the drumming stopped, the ropes that were attached to the totem pole were pulled taunt as a single drum beat. When the drum stopped; people stopped pulling. When it started again the pulling continued. As the pole came up, it teetered on its' base, but a prop was placed under it and up it came as the drum beat started again. Now it is up! It had been blessed by three Washington State tribes and "given" to the Quilleute People. I wonder if the blessings draw strength from the people watching? Because, now when I see that totem pole, even in a picture, I feel a sense of awe and power about it. It really stands for something for me. At one point I glanced up as someone was pointing skyward and saw an eagle gliding above us. Then another one joined the first. Then they slowly drifted Eastward and out of sight. One could see how the songs and drumming are woven into the lives of these people. I remember Tommy Jackson, a Quilleute elder, mentioning a couple of weeks ago how some people would sing paddling and blessing songs all day long as a canoe was being carved. Maybe it kept things in perspective, listening to the history sung to the carvers as things took shape. Then we all ate a magnificent meal. I mean, it was good! The Spring Salmon was baked on open alder wood fires and cooked to perfection. Six hundred people ate salmon, ham, steak, baked potatoes with sour cream and bacon chips, clam chowder, fry bread, smoked salmon, coffee, soda, strawberry shortcake and more. As we ate there was singing and gift giving and sermons and thank yous that went on for a couple of hours. I spent 5 hours there and left at 4:30. The next day I heard that there was another meal served and that the drumming, singing and laughing went on until 2:30 the next morning.
The sound of drumming ...It fills my ears ...It fills my heart... As the circle forms.... In reverence....It fills my ears.... It fills my heart.
Throughout the summer there will be other events which you can attend. Quilleute days in LaPush are on July 19th, 20th and 21st. A regatta of Indian canoes will be in LaPush on August 6th and 7th. And on August 8th they will visit the Hoh Village. There may be as many as 2000 people in this group. The Hoh Tribe has asked for volunteers to help with the preparation day, Aug 7; main day, Aug 8 and clean up day, Aug 9 activities when the group comes to Hoh River(3.5 miles from the hostel). I am offering a free night's stay on any one or all of these days to anyone who wants to be part of the volunteer effort. Makah Days are at Neah Bay on August 23rd, 24th, and 25th.Take it with ease, Jim