A 24-foot totem pole carved by Lummi Nation members stopped at Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation in Lompoc on June 8, as part of a cross-country journey to Washington, D.C., to broadcast a message of hope and unity.
The 5,000-mile ceremonial trek — dubbed the Red Road to D.C. — is a mobile campaign advocating for the protection of Native American lives and sacred lands, as well as to celebrate the appointment of Deb Haaland, the first woman and Native American to the role of secretary of the interior.
“It’s for the next generation,” explained Freddy Lane, Lummi Nation documentarian and road manager. “We’re not doing it for us. We’re doing it for those kids and their childrens’ childrens’ children.”
The Lummi People are the original inhabitants of Washington’s northernmost coast and southern British Columbia, and currently reside on the Lummi Indian Reservation in Washington state.
Twelve details depicting issues significant to Native Americans and Mother Earth are carved into the 4,990-pound Western red cedar wood totem pole, which took two months to complete.
Main carvers Jewell Praying Wolf James and his brother Doug James, of The House of Tears Carvers, began carving in February, and are part of the 10-person crew traversing the country.
“The Indian and the moon is Jewel James’ vision, the diving eagle represents leadership and the two salmon on this side are threatened,” Lane said, pointing to the totem pole resting on a flatbed truck. “When our salmon are gone, the bear die, the people die, the orcas die.”
Other details chiseled into the totem pole are depictions of a child in a cage, illustrative of those children currently locked up at the U.S.-Mexico border, seven peyote symbols of healing and a grandmother raising her grandchild, which represents the missing and murdered Indigenous women in America. There also is a bear and wolf and seven teardrops, which symbolize the seven generations of trauma experienced by Native Americans, a copper design and an eagle’s feather, Lane explained.
“This is what we have to do as leaders, is to stand up for those that can’t speak for themselves — like the four-legged, like those that fly in the sky,” he said. “This isn’t just an Indigenous issue, this is our humanity.
“We’re hoping to instill in the next generation that we’re all Americans,” Lane said. “Our message is that, ‘Your vote is important; you’re the difference.'”
The totem pole’s journey will include a number of stops at U.S. cities and will conclude on July 26, when it will be presented to the Biden Administration at the White House. It then will be delivered to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where it will find a permanent home.
To view scheduled events for the Red Road to D.C., visit redroadtodc.org