Friday, January 22, 2010

The Case of the Missing Totem Pole

by Jennifer Davis Hayes, Renton Community & Economic Development

What do the Renton Fred Meyer store, the Duwamish Tribe, the Renton Municipal Arts Commission, the West Seattle Blog,, the Renton History Museum and a small town in Oregon all have in common? Each plays a part in an amazing tale that unfolded this winter and involved the mystery of the missing Henry Moses honoring pole.

Henry Moses was the last Chief of the Duwamish Tribe and a graduate of Renton High School. In the 1970s a group of local business owners commissioned an honoring pole for him. In recent years, it has been “hidden” in clear view in a planting strip in the Renton Fred Meyer shopping center.

At the November Renton Municipal Arts Commission meeting, Commissioner Fred Lund shared his disappointment at the state of the honoring pole, which was surrounded by weeds and garbage. The Commission encouraged Fred to gather information about the pole to discuss with Fred Meyer management. After going to Liz Stewart at the Renton History Museum and gathering articles from the 1970s about the pole and dedication ceremony, Fred visited the Fred Meyer store and noticed the pole was gone. Fred Meyer Manager Eric Georgia didn’t know about any corporate actions to remove the pole. Our next thought was that perhaps the Duwamish Tribe had the pole for restoration, since a member had contacted the Arts Commission eight months earlier.

But in early December, Fred found a mention on about two totem poles found in Keizer, Oregon. One was identified as a pole stolen from West Seattle, but the other pole was of unidentified origin. The developing story first had been reported on the West Seattle Blog.

After a frantic e-mailing of the story to Duwamish Tribe members Eric Georgia and White-Bear (the member who had expressed interest in restoring it) – a sigh of relief and exclamation: “That’s our pole!”

A visit by Seattle Police officers to Fred Meyer confirmed ownership and the SPD communicated that they wanted the pole out of their secured evidence room immediately because the pole was infested with bugs! As you can imagine, 1001 calls were made in several directions to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, the original carver, Jim Ploegman, still lives in Renton. He offered his studio space to allow the Duwamish to restore the pole.

Two things down, but now how to pay for it? Luckily all those involved wanted to see a happy ending for this story and the initial meeting with Fred Meyer confirmed their interest in restoring the pole and placing it back on their property – this time in a more visible location. Store officials also committed resources to pay for the work. We don’t know the amount it will cost, so we may reach out to other resources to help ensure this pole isn’t lost to age.

It has been an amazing story to date, somewhat of a Christmas miracle. What’s even more amazing is how this theft has brought together uncommon partners (Fred Meyer, Renton Municipal Arts Commission, Renton History Museum, Duwamish Tribe, and a wood carver) to restore a community treasure. Look for updates on this blog and for the rededication
ceremony which, if timing is right, may be tied into Renton High School's centennial year activities.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Country

image by Julie Taylor

© Bob McKean 2008

Born here, raised here, probably die here
The Northwest coast, my country
Grays Harbor, it is called. Home of Grayland and no wonder.
Gray skies meet a gray sea crashing on gray sand

Temperate West Coast Marine, the geographers call it
Mild, dry summers, cool, wet winters
They don’t mention the length of those winters
But we are spared shivering in blizzards

Evergreen trees, some third generation, soaring to the sky
Douglas fir, Red cedar, hemlock, the occasional pine
Plant anything here, likely it will grow
Though some like it hot. We don’t do hot.

Salt water in my veins, webs between my toes
I could never live long away from the ocean
Emerald islands across open water
Waiting patiently for residents to return

Creeks and rivers that are gentle streams usually
But raging torrents after a Pacific storm
Occasionally flooding. The locals just rebuild
They don’t want to move anywhere else

Fish and game in such abundance
The indigenous peoples didn’t have to migrate
Unusual sea creatures, some found nowhere else
Visitors come from afar to watch the whales

Prone to earthquake, tsunami, eruption, wildfire
But not to hurricane or tornado; we give thanks
Looming volcanoes, some dormant, others not so much
Verdant valleys with rich soil left by receding water

Where else can you ski in the morning
Then golf in the afternoon of the same day
Here, I tell you, they are both right here
Less than an hour apart

Born here, live here now, likely die here
God’s country
My country

Bob McKean participates in the monthly Poetry Jam in Enumclaw.

SoCoCulture Love Poem Contest

(e-mail deadline February 10)

We're sponsoring our first-ever poetry contest! We are seeking a love poem to publish on this blog on Valentine’s Day.

1. Must be an original, previously unpublished love poem, written by a resident of South King County (anybody residing in Burien, Tukwila, Renton, Maple Valley, and all points south to the county line).
2. Must include some reference to a South King County feature (lake, hospital, street, school, etc.) If the reference would be obscure to most readers, please tell us more about it in a brief note at the end of the poem.
3. Poem must be no more than 20 lines in length.

Winner will receive:
A $10 Starbucks gift card, recognition in the March issue of SoCoCulture’s monthly E-News, and publication of the poem on this blog. Poet retains all other rights.

To submit (read this carefully, please):
1. E-mail your poem to -- no attachments, please.)
2. The subject line should read: SoCoCulture Love Poem Contest.
3. Your poem should be included in the body of the e-mail, beginning with the title.
4. Following the poem, let us know your name, city of residence (must be in South King County), e-mail address, and phone number.
5. Deadline: Wednesday, February 10.

Thanks for your interest! We look forward to hearing from you!