(Our first report on the totem-pole rededication event can be found here)
Along the 8-month-plus journey between the brazen theft of the West Seattle Rotary Viewpoint Park totem pole on a fall evening and its rededication in summer sunshine, there have been lessons learned by many – among them, the long and sometimes surprising path that justice can take.
One lesson provided at Tuesday night’s event, attended by more than 100 people gathered mostly in a semi-circle facing the front of the pole (and therefore the downtown Seattle skyline in the distance behind it), was that of grace, provided by someone who had not figured directly into the story before: Haida master carver Ralph Bennett. In the top video, you hear his drumming – and his words of honor for some of those on hand, including a request for the permission of in-attendance Duwamish Tribe leader Cecile Hansen, before he drummed on her historic territory. (The Haida people are from further north – coastal British Columbia and Alaska.) He also told a story – but first, one told by a Rotary leader, past president Amy Lee Derenthal. She led the club last fall, and so, as she noted Tuesday, the pole “was stolen on my watch!” Perhaps mostly for those who questioned why the club (and the Parks Department) chose to accept restitution from the man believed to be responsible for the theft, rather than pursuing prosecution, she spoke of how they believed the decision met the club’s “Four-Way Test” ethics code:
Back now to Ralph Bennett, who followed his drum song with a story relating specifically to the tale he says is told by the totem pole itself, particularly the thunderbird and whale that comprise its top sections.
His words about community rang close to home, as those who attended lingered after the ceremony’s end, either mingling by the pole, or moving on to a Rotary-organized celebration at the Golf Course clubhouse a short walk down the hill. And the event brought people from afar – not just carver Robin Young (shown in our first report), but even the woman who was Miss West Seattle Hi-Yu the year the pole was dedicated along with the park:
Debby Freeman Peterson was introduced toward the end of the event, when it was pointed out she came from the Midwest to be there. So what now? As noted in our previous coverage of the pole-restoration process, it will need a little TLC now and then – a coat of oil at least once a year:
As for the 34-year-old park itself, donated by the Rotarians in the bicentennial year of 1976, what you make of it now, is up to you, even if just – as Ralph Bennett put it – driving by and seeing it “alive.”