By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
At the United Methodist Church in Longview, Washington, Rev. Rene Devantier welcomed the Totem Pole Journey 2016 to a crowd that was double the expected turnout. Tanna Engdahl the spiritual leader of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe offered a blessing and many wise words, speaking of the holy, sacred, and mysterious nature of our quest for balance in our relationship with our home. She noted that the Totem Journey is “the ultimate expression of passive resistance to protect Mother Earth.”
Cowlitz Tribal Chairman Bill Iyall spoke of the effort to stop the Millenium Bulk Coal Terminal project, slated for operation in Longview to export 44 million tons of coal annually (this would be the largest terminal of its kind in North America). The terminal is still in the environmental impact assessment stage and he reminded folks about the comment period for the EIS.
Cowlitz Natural Resources Director Taylor Aalvik also spoke a few words and was accompanied by his daughter Kayla. The value of his work, he said, is reflected in his ability to make a better environment for his daughter. He spoke of the importance of ensuring a sustainable life for future generations.
Doug and Jewell James provided a blessing and prayer, then Jewell stirred the crowd with his powerful words. As I listened to all he had to say, the woman sitting next to me began crying tears of grief for Mother Earth. I touched her gently and gave her a tissue that I always have in my pocket. She sobbed for almost 10 minutes as Jewell spoke of all the damage we have been doing to our home.
Earlier, I had met her son, Juice! The seven-year-old was intrigued with all of our equipment, and I asked him if he would please take some pictures for me. Juice later helped Doug James and I re-strap the totem pole to the truck and ensure it was safely ready to travel to our next stop.
After all of the impassioned words, the crowd of about 150 came up to surround the totem pole and lay their blessings and prayers on it. It was a powerful ceremony punctuated by a lot of emotion – grief, love, anger, determination – and we ended by sharing a meal together, talking, making new friends, establishing connections between people who all want the same thing: a healthy, living planet for all future generations.