Students help create story pole

The finished story pole features images of an eagle, a bear with a salmon and a whale. -
The finished story pole features images of an eagle, a bear with a salmon and a whale.
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TULALIP Judging from the comments of Tulalip Tribes member Able Paco, the story involves not wasting resources, human or natural, and generosity.

"You have to realize we have to be able to make changes to who we are," said Paco, a recent graduate of Heritage High School and one of the 25 or so of the school's students who helped create a story pole as a gift for the Marysville School District's Quil Ceda Elementary School.

On June 10, accompanied by traditional song, members of the Tulalip Tribes raised the finished 15-foot pole into place in front of the school on the Tulalip Reservation.

Speaking to on lookers who ranged from Tribal elders to students to school district officials, Paco said the pole consists of several figures.

At the top is an eagle, representing a messenger. A bear grips a salmon, referring to the natural resources of the northwest. A whale figure makes up the base of the pole and is a traditional Tulalip symbol, Paco said, symbolizing the strength for new beginnings.

"I think it was an honor," said another Heritage High School graduate Jennifer Cordova-James of her work on the story pole. Cordova-James worked on painting the pole.

"It was hard working in some of the details," she added. "It was an experience I'll never forget."

Working under the guidance of master Tulalip and Lower Elwha tribe carvers, Heritage student Justus Moses, 14, was one of those who helped carve the pole.

"It was hard because I'd always worked on smaller stuff," he said, though he voiced a willingness to work on other poles. Justus added that for now he's working on personal projects such as masks.

Work on the pole began prior to the opening of the new Heritage High School building, part of the Marysville Options Campus, in March of this year. The project grew out of a similar gift presented to Marysville's Totem Middle School, said Heritage teacher Courage Benally. He added part of the idea, of course, was to remind Heritage students of their culture and instill a sense of pride in that culture.

Heritage's student population consists of Tulalip members and places an emphasis on tribal history and customs.

"You have to remember this was all their territory," Benally said.

When the Marysville schools began clearing space for what is now the Options Campus that encompasses Heritage and two other schools, Tulalip officials asked that some of the cedar trees present be preserved. According to information provided by the district, Tribal representatives were invited to gather cedar bark and identify trees to be saved for carving.

"Our culture is important, our stories are important," said another Heritage teacher, Ervanna Little Eagle. "Any medium you can use to teach that is valuable and powerful."

For the future, during an opening ceremony, Heritage teachers and others talked about a wish to place story poles at other spots around the school district, most notably Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

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