2017 Totem Pole Journey

Kwel Hoy

An exhibition by the Natural History Museum
and Lummi Nation

This year’s Totem Pole Journey is a collaboration effort between the Lummi Nation and the Natural History Museum. The exhibition centers on the Totem Pole Journey, a multi-year initiative (2013-2016) to raise awareness about our shared responsibility to land, water, and people. Since 2013, members of the Lummi Nation have been transporting a Totem Pole carved by Master Carver Jewell Praying Wolf James and the House of Tears Carvers to sites impacted by environmental change. As it travels, the Totem Pole draws a line between the dispersed but connected ecological concerns throughout North America, representing the unprecedented alliance of tribal and non-tribal communities as they stand together to advocate a sustainable relationship between humanity and the natural world.

For Kwel’ Hoy: We Draw The Line, the Totem Pole will enter a museum for the first time, where it will be paired with a collection of artifacts collected along the route of the 2017 Totem Pole Journey. Charged with the stories of resilience they have picked up on their journey across the country, they connect the museum–and the museum public–to the living universe in which they are enmeshed.

The exhibition stands as a powerful bridge between the Museum of Natural History and the communities that are working hardest, in the words of the American Alliance of Museum’s Code of Ethics “to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited . . . [and to] preserve that inheritance for posterity.”

Why museums? Museums’ curatorial and programmatic choices create public meaning in profound ways that transcend mere scientific facts. They educate the public, define values, influence behavior and normalize perspectives. They mediate our understanding of nature and humans’ place in the world.

Imagine if museums were providing the context, research-based visionary narratives, immersive experiences, and opportunities for audience identification and engagement with the struggles of communities on the front lines of the ecological crisis?

The mission of the Natural History Museum is to connect and empower scientists, museums, and frontline communities to address critical environmental and social challenges. By championing a vision of science for the common good and framing an understanding of nature as a commons, we aim to foster the global citizenship vision and resilience needed in at time of profound environmental and social change.

The 2017 Totem Pole Journey has already begun. The send-off blessing took place at the Lummi Nation Tribal Center in Bellingham on October 12th, with blessing stops in Vancouver, British Columbia (October 13th), Seattle, Washington (October 14th), Tacoma, Washington (October 15th), Vancouver, Washington (October 16th) and Portland, Oregon (October 17th). The Totem Pole is now continuing on its Journey to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where it is expected to be on exhibit along with the gathered artifacts in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The opening event at the Carnegie Museum will be on October 23rd. There will be a free event in the CMOA Theater that will be led by a delegation of Tribal elders and leaders: Jewell James (Lummi), Doug James (Lummi), Freddie Lane (Lummi), Faith Spotted Eagle (Yankton Sioux), Reuben George (Tsleil-Waututh), Valine Crist (Haida), and Judith LeBlanc (Caddo).  The event will involve blessings, talks, and a short film screening, and there will be video projections and a mobile pop-up exhibit on stage.

On October 25th, acclaimed master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James and Doug James of the House of Tears Carvers will take part in a totem pole blessing ceremony led by Faith Spotted Eagle (Yankton Sioux), marking the openings of the 2017 ICOM NATHIST Conference: The Anthropocene Natural History Museums in the Age of Humanity as well as the opening of the exhibition. The blessing will take place at 8:30 a.m. in the museum’s Sculpture Courtyard. Photographers and reporters are welcomed to attend.

The exhibit (Totem Pole and artifacts) will remain at Carnegie Museum for about 3-5 months and then will resume its Journey over the next 3 years to museums throughout North America.

For more information on the Carnegie events, contact:
Kathleen Bodenlos
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (office)

From the Ancestors to our Grandchildren

Drawing the Line for our Children

“We are killing off all those cultures that would protect the Earth; reinforcing the cultures that destroy the Earth. As a consequence, we’re creating a world our children can’t live in. Somebody has to stand up and say no, no more. It’s not just our battle, it’s everybody’s battle. Whether red, black, white or yellow, all of us have to draw the line, and unify.”

— Master Carver Jewell James
on our sacred obligation to draw the line
when it comes to fossil fuel projects that threaten
water, land, public health, and our future.

The 2017 Totem Pole . . .


2017 Totem Pole Journey: Pacific Northwest

2017 TPJ PNW

Bellingham, WA Send-off
October 12, 2017

From Freddie Lane, Journey videographer: “I’d also like to thank all the tribal members that came by, spoke, gave thanks to our friends and neighbors who stand with us. Especially Thank Beth [Brownfield], Deborah [Cruz], Chief Tsilixw, Councilmen Lawrence Si’alhe-leq, Steamer and Nephew Jay [Julius], Denise, Pastor Charis [Weathers] and all the community that came to witness this historic work to Protect Mother Earth. \•/ Aye Si’am!”

2017 TPJ Bham


2017 TPJ Bham 2

Lummi members Freddie Lane, Jewell James, Candice Wilson, Jay Julius


Vacouver, B.C. Blessing
October 13, 2017

The first stop on the 2017 Totem Pole Journey was in Vancouver, where the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other relatives are fighting to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. Prayers up.

2017 TPJ Vancouver BC


Seattle, WA Blessing
October 14, 2017

2017 TPJ Seattle

2017 TPJ Seattle 2


Tacoma, WA Blessing
October 15, 2017

Vancouver, WA Blessing
October 16, 2017


Portland, OR Blessing
October 17, 2017

2017 TPJ Portland 2

2017 TPJ Portland 5


2017 Totem Pole Journey – Onward to Pittsburg

By Matt Fulcrumb

2017 TPJ Museum statueAfter a week of blessing ceremonies here in the PNW, Freddie Xwenang Lane, Jewell James and Doug James are now barrelling across the country to bring the newest House of Tears Carvers totem pole and an art exhibit to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where Jewell will be speaking at the annual conference of museum directors and where the totem pole will begin three years traveling in an exhibit connecting Indigenous sovereignty and resistance to fossil fuel industries to our need to come together as communities to protect our future generations and the well-being of our Mother Earth.

The theme of the conference this year is the “Anthropocene” or era of human-influenced planetary change, a word that many critics point to as blaming our entire species (including “third world” nations, etc.) for climate change when, in fact, it has more accurately been a number of elites/elite nations, giant corporations and capitalism over the last 100 years which are most to blame for directing our planet down this perilous path.

2017 TPJ Museum BannerOne of the goals of this insurgent, Indigenous exhibition is to get the museums to reconsidering their investments in fossil fuels and to hopefully make it less tenable for fossil fuel industry types to sit on the board of directors of these museums and institutions. Another is to inspire those who witness the exhibit to rally together with their communities to take action to confront this global challenge. Did you know that more people visit US museums every year than attend ALL the big national sporting events combined? Wow, right?

It was great spending the last several days traveling with my friends Jewell, Freddie, Doug, Victoria Leistman, Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky and Dr. Kurt Russo to the PNW blessing events and to see so many passionate, engaged and active communities standing up to protect their neighborhoods, cities and the ecosystems around them. Wishing Fred, Jewell and Doug safe travels and clear vision as they bring the message of the Totem Pole Journey to the eyes and hearts out east an I look forward to seeing you guys when you return . . .


2017 Totem Pole Journey: Preparing the Museum Exhibit


2017 Totem Pole Journey: October 23rd at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History


2017 Totem Pole Journey: October 25th Carnegie Museum of Natural History Blessing


2017 Totem Pole Journey: Bringing the Totem Pole into the Exhibit area


2017 Totem Pole Journey: Part II on bringing in the Totem Pole as part of the Exhibit