Bear and eagle watch over trail

An eagle and bear bridging a kind of culture gap serve as a

welcome to Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe land and the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Dale Faulstich's newest totem, a rendering of the legend "How the Bear Acquired His Claws," greets visitors to the trail and the Blyn-based tribal property after its unveiling last week.

Standing 10 feet tall, the totem's sides depict a great bear on one side and a shaman eagle on the other, the two connected by a Northwest tribal legend.

"The tribe sees this as the gateway to the peninsula," tribe publications specialist Betty Oppenheimer said as she and others gathered to watch the totem's placement Jan. 16.

Faulstich said once he had an appropriate story for the pole, it took about a month to complete with the help of full-time staffers Nathan Gilles and Bud Turner and volunteer Harry Burlingame.

Last week, Faulstich, Gilles and Turner helped put together the two-part totem with aid from Jamestown Excavating crew members who carefully set the pole parts in place.

"They know how to handle artwork," Faulstich said.

The totem is featured on the north side of U.S. Highway 101 across from the tribe's social and community services plaza. The piece is part of the tribe's movement to adorn parts of the trail and highway underpass with aesthetic, cultural artwork, said Annette Nesse, Jamestown's chief operations officer.

She said tribal officials have plans to adorn the nearby tunnel entrance and inner walls with more relevant artwork.

"The tribe is thrilled to have the trail going through its property," Oppenheimer said, noting that the new totem serves as a sort of welcome to tribal land.

The bear, as the legend goes, was great in size but slight in his regard for other animals.

Qweetc'en, as the bear was known, had no claws to catch salmon, and therefore no salmon to feed his wife or their two small cubs.

The bear cried out for his ancestors to help. A great eagle, a wise and prestigious shaman, heard his cries and offered to help. He pulled off one of his own talons and planted it on the bear's paw.

The bear, the legend says not only learned humility but also that "it is easier to obtain one's goals through mutual cooperation and friendship than by solitary endeavor."

Michael Dashiell can be reached at miked@sequim

How the Bear Acquired His Claws

From Dale Faulstich

A long time ago, there lived a large, powerful bear. He possessed great strength, but he also had a belligerent attitude and he disdained all the lesser animals in the forest.

This arrogant creature never would offer his assistance to anyone and he expected no help in return.

This was Qweetc'en, the grizzly bear. He lived in a cave with his wife and their two small cubs.

Not far from the cave of Qweetc'en, there flowed a fast-moving river of clear, cold water. During certain seasons of the year, this river would become crowded with salmon as they swam upstream to spawn.

The grizzly bear family loved to eat salmon more than any other food.

However, in those ancient times, bears were different than they are today, in that they did not possess claws.

This deficiency made it very difficult for them to catch, and hold on to their favorite food. The fish almost always could wiggle free.

Due to this lack of claws, Qweetc'en and his family frequently would go hungry. The two small cubs often complained of hunger pains and the mother bear constantly scolded her husband to better provide for his family.

One day, Qweetc'en went to the river to attempt to catch a meal. He spent the entire day thrashing around in the cold water, without luck. Every fish easily slipped through his grasp.

Tired and hungry, the cold, disheartened bear climbed out of the river.

He raised his eyes heavenward, looked toward the sun and cried out with frustration, "Grandfather, help me! I am unable to catch any fish and my family has nothing to eat."

Perched in a nearby tree, an eagle could hear the bear's plea for relief and felt pity for him. This wasn't an ordinary eagle. In addition to being "Chief-of-All-Eagles," he was a wise and prestigious shaman.

He immediately flew down to the river's edge and addressed Qweetc'en.

"I have overheard your prayer and have come to help you. Hold up your paw."

So saying, he pulled off one of his own talons, and planted it on the bear's upheld forepaw. At that moment, all the bear's paws became endowed with sharp claws. From that time until the present, all bears have been provided with claws, and consequently, enjoy a plentiful supply of fresh salmon in their season.

It was in this way that Qweetc'en learned humility. He also learned that it is easier to obtain one's goals through mutual cooperation and friendship than by solitary endeavor.

Even today, bears and eagles remain friends, and continue to share their wealth of salmon.

Michael Dashiell can be reached at: miked@sequim

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