News & Politics

Photos: Native American Totem Pole Blessing Ceremony

This totem pole traveled across the country as part of a campaign to protect sacred tribal lands.

Tribal leaders and Lummi Nation carvers bless the roughly 5,000 pound totem pole in front of National Museum of the American Indian.

A traditionally-carved and intricately-painted totem pole, made from a 400-year-old red cedar trunk, arrived at the National Mall this week on its final stop of the “Red Road to DC.” During a blessing ceremony Thursday, the pole was presented to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary, and the Biden-Harris Administration. This is one of more than 115 blessing ceremonies the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers have led during the pole’s 20,000-mile journey from coast to coast this summer.

The purpose of the journey is to bring people together to support Indigenous rights and Indigenous communities in their efforts to protect sacred lands and waters from extraction and enclosure. According to the carvers, the totem pole is a call to action for President Biden to immediately protect sacred sites.

The pole will be on temporary display near the entrance of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian until July 31, 2021. Then, it will be moved to Rawlins Park for a month before organizers decide on a permanent home for the pole in the DC area, the Washington Post reports.

Washingtonian photographer Evy Mages captured images from the event:

The totem pole is 25 feet long and almost 5,000 pounds.
Eighteen symbols were carved into pole. The diving eagle’s head symbolizes power.
People place their hands on the totem pole Thursday in the National Mall outside of the National Museum of the American Indian.
At the top of the pole is a full moon which represents the circle of life. The red handprints surrounding the figure represent murdered and missing Indigenous women.
Running waters are depicted at the bottom of the pole.

Tribal leaders and the carvers bless the totem pole.

Editorial Fellow

Anne Tate, originally from Annapolis, MD, joined Washingtonian in July 2021. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied journalism and psychology.