Celebrating culture with Port Ludlow Totem Pole

By Jonathan Glover of The Leader
Posted 7/7/15

David Boxley and his Tsimshian (shihm-sheeuhn) tribal members were honored this Fourth of July weekend for their contributions in carving and restoring the massive totem pole at the Port Ludlow …

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Celebrating culture with Port Ludlow Totem Pole

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David Boxley and his Tsimshian (shihm-sheeuhn) tribal members were honored this Fourth of July weekend for their contributions in carving and restoring the massive totem pole at the Port Ludlow Marina.

Called the Port Ludlow Totem Pole, it was originally commissioned 20 years ago by Pope Resources, then the resort owners, and underwent extensive restoration from May 4 through May 8, 2015.

The ceremony was organized in conjunction with the Resort at Port Ludlow's Fireside Restaurant and featured a musical performance by the Port Ludlow Singers and a Tsimshian ritual of songs and dances featuring tribe members dressed in their native garb. The program was followed by a potlatch meal at the nearby restaurant.

“It's an honor to be here with all of you today,” Boxley said in front of a crowd of about 100 people.

The ceremony began with organizers thanking people for their support of the totem pole fund, which sponsored the pole's restoration. Boxley said the restoration included cleaning off the moss growth and repainting the pole. New wings were also added to the eagle portion atop the pole.

The pole was carved by Boxley in 1995 and came from “a massive red cedar” from near the Hoh Rain Forest estimated to be 700 years old, and blew down in 1993. He said he carved the pole in a large workshop in the area of the marina where condos now sit.

Boxley is a member of the Tsimshian Tribe of Metlakatla, Alaska near the state's southeastern-most tip, about 300 miles from Juneau. During the ceremony, he and his tribespeople performed songs and dances originating in their native land.

At one point during his speech, Boxley spoke in his native language, Sm’algyax (which means “the true language,” Boxley said). He would often speak the Sm’algyax version of “OK” or “all right” during his speech.

Boxley said this 20th-anniversary event is the first time the totem pole had been so honored.

“It's really important to teach people the history behind the pole,” Boxley said. “It represents all of us. Once people see that, they see the importance.”

According to a Port Ludlow blog post on the totem, the eagle on the pole reflects the area before humans; the bear represents ancestors of the local S’Klallam tribe; the two men with locked arms are Andrew Jackson Pope and Frederic Talbot, who owned the Port Ludlow sawmill; the lumberman portrays the sawmill itself; the beaver is representative of Pope Resources; and the six figures at the base of the pole represent the people of Port Ludlow.

“That guy here is holding a cell phone,” said Boxley, pointing to the pole. “They've come a long way since then. It looks like he's holding an elephant now.”

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