A killer whale totem pole has made its journey through the Pacific Northwest to raise awareness of calls to remove dams from the Snake River. Through May, it made stops in tribal communities and cities, as Eric Tegethoff reports.
The Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey began at the beginning of May in Bellingham, near the Lummi Indian Reservation where it was carved. Since then, it’s traveled through Oregon, Idaho and back to Seattle. Jewell James with the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers is its head carver. He said the pole is 16 feet long, weighs three-thousand pounds and sits on two carved, eight-foot-long salmon.
“A killer whale that has a baby whale on its nose to reflect Tahlequah, the whale that lost her calf and carried it around Puget Sound for 17 days and over 1,000 miles trying to get the message to us, the human beings, that we are killing them off.”
James says the journey is supporting the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ call to remove four dams on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington, which are impeding salmon migration. The salmon’s population drop in the Columbia River Basin in recent decades also has starved Southern Resident orcas in Puget Sound. Dam supporters say they are integral for barging and irrigation in the region. But James says there’s growing disappointment among tribes and conservation groups with lawmakers’ inaction as salmon near extinction.
“They’re more prone to protect the interests of corporations than they are the general public, and we find that a little frustrating.”
The journey has brought together tribal members, conservation groups and the faith community to call for the restoration of the Snake River.