A totem pole carved in honor of the appointment of Deb Haaland as the secretary of the interior will make its way down the Central Coast this week during its journey to the White House, with stops in Lompoc and Montecito.
Ms. Haaland is a descendent of Chief Seattle, the renowned chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes who lived in the Pacific Coast bay area in the 1800s. She is the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary and is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe.
In honor of this historic selection, Jewell Praying Wolf James, a master carver, a great-great grandson of Chief Seattle and citizen of the Lummi Nation in Washington state, has carved a totem pole that will be presented to the Biden administration. The creation is currently on the back of a truck bed that is making its “Red Road to DC Journey,” which will begin in San Francisco for an event at Stanford University.
The totem pole will then make its way to the Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc on Tuesday, before arriving at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Montecito for a private ceremony on Wednesday. Both of these events are private and only open to the media.
The truck will then make stops at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo, as well as UCLA by the end of next week.
Main carver Jewell Praying Wolf James will be present to speak at the event in Lompoc, and Nakia Zavala, a Santa Ynez Chumash tribal member, will do the opening blessing and songs.
“The carvers have created totem poles, or ‘story’ poles for many generations calling for social justice, environmental protection and reconciliation of historic traumatic events that have troubled Native Americans,” Jewell Praying Wolf James said in a statement.
He continued, “Their most recent totem pole journey honors the first Native American woman appointed to any Cabinet position, the secretary of the interior. The journey calls for protection of sacred sites, places and waters. The totem pole will stop at sacred sites along the way.
“The symbolic connections between the figures tells the story of oppression of the female power. At one time, we all practiced Mother Earth spirituality. The story pole calls for all of us to reunite with our basic love for the earth and all life that is dependent upon it.”
Once the totem pole arrives in Washington, D.C., it will be presented to President Joe Biden before being placed in its permanent home at the Smithsonian.