LACEY - About 200 people watched as a coastal-style totem pole was raised Saturday morning at Nisqually Middle School, a six-year labor of love that students, American Indian tribal members and others all helped create.
The raising of the 15-foot pole, called “Children Playing Among Teachers,” was part of a two-hour ceremony during which those who helped carve it were acknowledged. There also were tribal ceremonies and prayer, as well as guest speakers, including David Wilson, a Lummi master carver who has led the carving effort for the past few years. Wilson acknowledged the hundreds of people, including Nisqually Middle School students, who helped carve the pole.
“From eight years old to 80 years old and everyone in between,” he said about those who had a hand in shaping the pole. “People will be talking about this 100 years from now.”
After an hour of speeches and ceremonies, the pole was unveiled. Then 20 people associated with its creation lifted it into position so that a crane could place it on a metal base. After the pole was raised, it received a tribal blessing. Then Wilson explained the design, pointing out the three animals displayed on it.
At the top is an eagle, which represents strength, followed by a whale for family. At the bottom is the nurturing image of a bear, he said. Children’s faces represent the school and the community. While Wilson explained the pole, a tribal elder pointed out that a bird, possibly an eagle, was flying above during the ceremony.
Nisqually Middle School, which draws a good share of children from the nearby Nisqually reservation, has been “Home of the Totems.”
One day, art teacher Ginny Lane, who also attended Saturday, heard some students in her advisory class say they didn’t understand why the school had such an unusual mascot. That led to the totem pole idea and the securing of a 186-year-old cedar log that was donated by Manke Lumber of Shelton for the project. During the carving, the pole spent time at the school and at the Nisqually tribe’s community carving studio.
One of those who helped work on the pole was former Nisqually Middle School student Querida Perez, 16. She attended Saturday as a special guest and said she developed a close relationship with David Wilson and his wife, Anna, during the carving.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403