S’Klallam tribal art is not confined to totem poles. There is a carved rendition of a killer whale located at the north campus of the S’Klallam Tribal Center in Blyn. To the right are drawings of the piece as planned and a foam carving of its front end. The photo is taken in the Tribe’s Carving Shed. Below is the finished piece as it stands today.
Just for contrast, here is a sampling of historic totems and how they may be presented today. These are totems featured in Thunderbird Park at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sequim. This is a photo from 2010, taken on the fly and shown just as comparison. I don’t have information about the totems except that they represent First Nations communities across British Columbia.
The Royal BC Museum also has totem poles inside, in its First Peoples Galleries. It is a wonderful museum, well worth a day trip from the Olympic Peninsula.
Tomorrow: A different kind of carving at the S’Klallam Tribal Center.
Back again at the 7 Cedars Casino, the first totem, above, is in a style from the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is a representation of the supernatural world and shows each major realm of nature: the Forest World, the Sky World, and the Undersea World.
The forms on the totem pole above represent natural phenomena in human-like shapes. They are carved in the Tlingit style of northern British Columbia. The bottom figure on this pole is Fog Woman who can both help and harm coastal peoples. Fog Woman can conceal people from enemies or hide hunters as they approach prey. Her nasty side can disorient people and cause them to get lost, sometimes permanently.
Although totem poles can be viewed in some museum and preserved settings, those created for the S’Klallam Tribe are contemporary. They have been created in the past 20 years by living artists using traditional styles, forms, and legends. The S’Klallam peoples are a current, living culture.
Tomorrow: A look at carvings at the S’Klallam Tribal Center.
Here is another look at the S’Klallam Tribe’s 7 Cedars Casino totem poles in Blyn. This totem honors a storied leader of the S’Klallam Tribe, Lord James Balch. In 1855 a treaty rejected by many S’Klallam took their lands and moved Tribe members to a reservation 100 miles away, crowding them on unfamiliar land with tribes that had other languages and cultures. Understanding that purchasing lands would assure permanency Lord James Balch led his villagers to raise $500 and in 1874 purchased 210 acres in an area named Jamestown in his honor. With secure lands the Tribe went on to raise the first schoolhouse in Clallam County in 1878. This totem is carved in the Coast Salish style.
Tomorrow: The supernatural world and elements from nature.
Totem poles are part of the First Nations heritage in the Pacific Northwest. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, centered in Blyn, just east of Sequim, commissioned a master carver, Dale Faulstich and a carver/painter, Nathan Gilles, and many volunteer carvers to produce totems that grace their tribal operations.
The poles tell stories: of history, of religious, traditional, and cultural folklore. The figures carved into totems can represent people, animals, spirits, and events. Though nature is often representated in totem art, the pole immediately below on the right is a representation of elements the tribe calls into play for the success of the 7 Cedars Casino where it is located. It includes a financier portrayed, not accidentally, as a bird of prey. And at its top government oversight is represented in the form of a mouse, described as “the little rodent that eats at every man’s table.”
The Casino has a striking array of totem poles that primarily represent the art of the Coast Salish Tribes. But there are also four that show the carving style of regional tribes of north of here, in British Columbia. The pole at left is carved and painted in the Haida style and the one at the right is carved in the Nuxalt style.
Here are details of some of the poles.
The tribe is succeeding in its casino venture. In recent voting conducted by the local Peninsula Daily News the 7 Cedars Casino won “Best of Olympic Peninsula” in the “Best Buffet” and “Best Dancing” categories.
I’ll post examples of other S’Klallam totem art in the coming days, including photos of the workshop where carving is done.
This is on the abutment of a Dungeness River bridge. It’s hidden from general view.
This might pass for a spooky Halloween mask but for its odd setting, attached securely into a bush of wild roses. I’m fairly sure this is a paper wasp nest. Nobody came or went while I was photographing, so there were no clues there. It was on the large side, about eight inches tall and perhaps six inches wide. Notice how it’s constructed completely around branches of the rose, with a “front door” opening at its base. Much as we prefer to dislike wasps and yellowjackets, they are beneficial insects that eat pests that can damage trees and shrubs. Here is more information from the Washington State University Cooperative Extension.
Here’s another view that shows more of the setting, surrounded by ripening rose hips. Though the insects abandon the nest around now, it’s not a bad neighborhood if you’re an insect looking for a nice spot. This is not near any human homes.