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Ferndale welcomes House of Tears Lummi Carvers

The House of Tears Lummi Carvers arrived at the United Church of Ferndale on March 3, but without their totem carving, because of problems with licensing the trailer that the totem was on, said Marilyn Burwell of Ferndale.

Freddie Lane and Doug James, brother of Jewell James, the head carver, present Marilyn Burwell with one of three blankets they brought with them.                    Photo courtesy of Marilyn Burwell

This was the third stop of more than 32 days during March for the “Totem Pole Journey to Protect Oak Flat.”

The first 11 days of the journey were in areas in Western Washington before heading south to Oregon, California, and Arizona, where they have two days of prayers in Oak Flat, 65 miles from Phoenix. They return through New Mexico, Nevada and Idaho.

The destination spot, Oak Flat, is a holy place of prayer for the San Carlos Apache people, near Globe, Arizona. A subsidiary of Rio Tinto wants to build an open pit copper mine in this sacred place, Marilyn said.

The Totem Pole Journey to Protect Oak Flat is an awareness campaign by the Alliance of Earth, Sky and Water Protectors, Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Apache Stronghold to protect the Apache holy site.

“We viewed a slide show, heard speeches, saw artifacts and shared in a circle blessing that included a sacred eagle staff,” Marilyn said, telling of the event at her church.

About 50 people attended, about half from other churches or from the community.

The program began at 3 p.m. and the carvers arrived at 4:30 p.m. for the spiritual blessing. Because they did not bring the totem, their program began at 5 p.m. and lasted until 7 p.m.

“We had been warned by our Unitarian friends not to fret, to go with the flow and to expect the unexpected,” she said. “Indeed, that’s what happened.”

The leader, Freddie Lane of the House of Tears, was fasting because he was carrying the sacred eagle staff. He carried in an ancient rock anchor, one like the kind the Lummi used to use to anchor their fishing nets.

Organizers prepared four portable bulletin boards with maps of the totem journey for guests to view while they ate and waited.

Wendsler Nosie Sr., former chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe, has been living on the Oak Flat for the past two years defending their sacred site. 

He invited the House of Tears Carvers to come for a hearing before the United States 9th Circuit of Appeals on the land swap legislation by Congress to a foreign national mining company, Resolution Copper of Australia.

“Our indigenous led climate justice efforts go far beyond protecting Xwe’chi’eXen and where our ancestors reside at Cherry Point,” said Freddie Lane, an organizer.

“It extends inter-tribally and internationally with our Alliance of Protectors speaking out for the lands, waters, ancestral burial and sacred sites,” he said.

“We do this spiritual work with permission from our family elders and our spiritual leaders in a good way with ‘One Heart and One Mind,’ Protecting Mother Earth for our children’s great-grandchildren,” he said in a letter about the effort.

Other stops include the Interfaith Community of Olympia on March 1.

For information, call 360-391-7560.


Copyright © Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ News March 2023


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