healing totem travels east


A 20-foot-tall healing totem pole loaded on an open flat-bed truck received blessings from Indian tribes as it made its way from the West Coast to a permanent display near Washington, D.C.

The totem and two flanking benches, all carved from western red cedar, will be installed in an herb garden at the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

The carvings will highlight a "Native Voices" exhibit to open Oct. 6, telling of traditional healing methods preserved in tribal lore. A website also is planned to provide Internet access to the exhibit.

As the Healing Totem traveled east it stopped for bleesings from numerous tribes along the way, including the: Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Fort Yates, N.D.; Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation in Fort Totten, N.D.; White Earth Indian Reservation in Mahnomen, Minn.; Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls, WI; American Indian Center in Chicago; Onondaga Nation in Syracuse, NY; and the Mohegan Tribe in Uncasville, CT.

The healing totem began in 2010 with the selection of a 500-year-old red cedar by Jewell Praying Wolf James, head of the Lummi Indian Nation’s House of Tears Carvers.

The totem received a blessing at the historic Lummi village site of Semiahmoo, 25 miles north of Bellingham, Wash., on Sept. 12 before starting its journey east. James earlier carved three healing totems to honor victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Also carved from western red cedar, those memorial totems stand today in a forest northwest of New York City, in Shanksville, Pa., and in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.