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Totem installed at entryway to UW Friday Harbor Fernald Labs

UW FHL release: University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs has a new totem pole installation at the front entryway to Fernald Labs The carving of this totem is attributed to Wilson Williams, a noted Nuu-chah-nulth (formerly referred to as Nootka) carver who lived on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Many of the Williams family are carvers today. Wilson carved poles for Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront in Seattle. Although we do not have direct evidence, a former Curator of Northwest Coast Indian Art at Seattle Art Museum attributed the carving to Mr. Williams, with an estimated date of 1920-1930.

The carving and its artist are not traditionally/culturally from the San Juan Islands. The totem is not representing or claiming territory for any tribe, culture, or people; rather, it is on display for its remarkable artistry and craftsmanship.

How the totem got to FHL: Dr. Eugene Nester (UW Emeritus Professor of Microbiology) purchased the pole in Seattle from Darrel Norman, a Blackfeet artist. Mr. Norman was moving to a new house that would not accommodate the pole. He told Dr. Nester that the pole was owned by David Tobias, owner of the Seattle Tent and Awning Company. Mr. Tobias built a resort near Mt. Rainier where the pole was displayed. It then went to his daughter, who owned it for many years. She wanted to will it to the Burke Museum, but the Museum already had similar examples. As a consequence, Darrel Norman got it, and eventually sold it to Dr. Nester.

Eugene Nester has spent many productive hours at the Whiteley Center at FHL and served for years on the Whiteley Administrative Committee. He knew that the totem would be a beautiful and appreciated gift to our facility, and generously donated it in Fall 2022.

FHL Land and Waters Acknowledgement Statement:

For those who engage in learning and research activities, including students, researchers, faculty, staff, scholars, and artists at FHL, knowing the history of our place and the context for our activities is an intellectual and ethical responsibility.

We therefore strongly encourage you to read our Land and Waters Acknowledgement Statement and consider our collection of resources. Moreover, we ask you to recognize the history of the first peoples on our land and waters and think critically about colonial ideologies and wrongdoings that altered their lives- wrongdoings that continue to impact the ability of Coast Salish peoples to manage land/water resources in accordance with cultural practices necessary to sustain the ecological health of the Salish Sea region.

Finally, we ask you to join us as we seek to honor and understand our sense of place in these ancestral land and water environments.

To this end: 

The Friday Harbor Laboratories, College of the Environment, University of Washington, acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land that touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Lhaq’temish (Lummi), Lekwungen (Songhees), Swinomish, Semiahmoo, Samish, T’sou-ke, WSÁNEĆ, and Jamestown S’Klallam.

We recognize that the establishment of FHL and our work here has only been possible because of the external and internal colonization of this region, forced removals, and efforts to render tribal and First Nations invisible, assimilated, and/or disappeared. We also recognize the continuing systemic harms from settler colonialism, nationalism, and White supremacy, that often  play a role in educational and research endeavors. We will not ignore relocation (and in some cases, removal) of Coast Salish peoples from these lands in the Straits of the Salish Sea. We also recognize that even though the Coast Salish peoples were granted rights to fish and harvest shellfish by treaty, they were forced to file suits in U.S. Federal Courts to gain access to resources guaranteed by these treaties.

We commit to engage with the people who, as a group, have an unbroken history of living on the land, shores and waters that lie within the San Juan Archipelago region of the Salish Sea. We recognize and acknowledge their resilience, the intellect of their languages, and their important Traditional Knowledges (TK) including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) which through ceremony, practice, teachings, and management protect this region from harm. We strive to actively increase our understanding of place-based knowledge and other ways of knowing. While we celebrate the accomplishments of scientific inquiry, discovery, and education at FHL, we value the complementarity of tribal knowledge and world view and seek to learn from Coast Salish peoples in pursuit of our shared goal of living sustainably.

At FHL we actively seek to develop meaningful relationships, provide opportunities for further edification, and support specific actions and programs as a result of our recognition and commitment to Coast Salish peoples and the land and waters we share (see Addendums I and II ).

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