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Totem Pole Takes Journey for Salmon, Struggling Puget Sound Orca

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Friday, May 20, 2022   

A totem pole from Washington state promoting a free-flowing Snake River has nearly completed its 2,500-mile journey around the Northwest.

The Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey started in early May in Bellingham, near the Lummi Indian Reservation where it was carved. Since then, it's traveled through Oregon, Idaho and back to Seattle on Thursday.

Jewell James, head carver of the House of Tears Carvers, said the pole is 16 feet long, weighs 3,000 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 explained.

James noted 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 said they are integral for barging and irrigation in the region. But James countered there is 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," James contended. "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 Salmon River. The totem pole is making its final stop in Tacoma today.


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