Sunshine and rain, the Admiral Viewpoint at Belvedere Park in West Seattle is a popular destination for tourists and locals to enjoy a view of Elliot Bay and the downtown skyline. My favorite part of this park is the story totem standing at tall above the lookout (pictured right on "web," below on "mobile.") Coast Salish tribes carved story totems as opposed to totem poles. Story totems were left unpainted and served structural and artistic purposes in longhouses. The Duwamish tribe were the first inhabitants of what is now metropolitan Seattle and a first generation descendant of the tribes great Chief Sealth, Michael Haladay, carved the story totem that stands at the park today. The 25 foot, free standing cedar pole was carved from an approximately 500 year old Western red cedar cut down by poachers on the Olympic Peninsula.
The story totem tells the tale of when the Duwamish people met the first settlers of what would become Seattle, the Denny Party. From the bottom up, the five panels of the story begin with the "welcoming spirit" figure. This figure, in the form of a house post, symbolizes the hospitality the Denny party received from the friendly Duwamish people. The next panel is a carving of the ship that brought the Denny party pioneers to Alki beach, the schooner "Exact." The three faces above the ship represent the Duwamish tribes' men, women and children. Seated above the faces is the figure of Chief Sealth and the wide wingspan of the thunderbird at the top of the story pole represents the great power of Chief Sealth, who once led the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.
"You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
Teach your children what we have taught our children, the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.
We may be brother after all.
We shall see.
One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover- our God is the same God.
You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white.
The earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator...
Where is the thicket? Gone.
Where is the eagle? Gone.
The end of living and the beginning of survival."
~Chief Sealth (Seattle,) 1854