Pentagon Presented 9/11 'Healing Poles'
By Rudi Williams
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2004 Washington state's Lummi Indian Nation presented two totem poles carved out of red cedar trees older than the United States to the Pentagon Sept. 19 as a gesture of unity and support to the families of the 184 people who died there in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"The totem poles are a symbol of something that all of us have within us," said Jewell "Praying Wolf" James, a councilman and master carver of the Lummi Nation. "We have the power to heal, the power to love each other, the power to unite -- that's what the symbol is about.
The Liberty and Freedom totem poles with the Sovereignty
crossbar placed across them are the "sacredness of love joining us together,"
said Jewell "Praying Wolf" James, councilman and master carver of the Lummi
Nation. The Lummis presented the poles to the Pentagon in a Sept. 19 ceremony
to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Photo by Rudi
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The totem pole isn't a sacred thing, it's the sacredness of love joining us together," said James, who wore a coned straw hat over long, black, braided hair and a black vest with a shadowy gray wolf's head on the back.
James said the 580 Indian nations are proud of the fact that 60 percent of their members are veterans. "They serve our nation, and they serve the United States with honor, courage, strength and integrity," he said. The two upright 15-foot totem poles are titled Liberty and Freedom. The Liberty pole features a female bear with a "grandmother moon" in her abdomen. The Freedom pole has a male bear with a "grandfather moon." The colorful 34-foot Sovereignty crossbar joining the two poles has eagles carved on each end, with two sets of seven feathers representing the American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The female eagle symbolizes peace, and the male symbolizes war.
"The vision of the poles is liberty and freedom supporting sovereignty," James noted. "But when you see the male and female eagles on the top, you'll see a human being on the other end. That represents the men and women in uniform that gave their lives for our freedom and our liberty -- whether it was a policeman, fireman or soldier."
James, who introduced all of the totem pole carvers, said, "I'm proud of the Lummi Nation for believing that the four colors on these poles red, white, black and yellow reflect the four races of America. I think America is beautiful because we're composed of all four races and we believe in liberty and freedom -- the freedom to chose our own leadership and remove them, (and) the liberty to practice our own native beliefs or our own form of organized religion."
He noted that more than 80 people helped carve, paint and clean up, and about four dozen Indian nations across the country helped take the poles to the three sites and added their prayers.
Calling the totem poles "the star attraction," Raymond DuBois, director of the Pentagon's administration and management, said, "These poles should be recognized as a national treasure."
DuBois said over the past three weeks, the Liberty and Freedom poles traveled nearly 5,000 miles from Semiahmah, Wash., to Washington, D.C. The poles will be taken from the Pentagon on Sept. 23 and erected in Washington's Congressional Cemetery. They will remain there for a year before moving to a permanent home as part of the District of Columbia's 9/11 Memorial Grove on Kingman Island in the Anacostia River.
The Liberty and Freedom poles are the third set of totem poles carved by Jewell James and presented by the Lummi nation. On Sept. 7, 2002, the Healing Pole was presented to the families of victims at the site of the World Trade Center. It's now permanently located at Sterling Forest, one hour north of Manhattan. A year later, the Lummis presented the Honoring Pole to the people of Shanksville, Pa.
"The Liberty and Freedom poles are a poignant tribute to the American spirit of unity and bravery," DuBois said. "Today, we honor the 184 victims who perished at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and the thousands of men and women who have willingly given their lives to protect our way of life from those who wish to destroy it."
Accepting the "healing poles" was Lisa Dolan, wife of Navy Capt. Robert Dolan, who was killed in the Pentagon terrorist attack. "At 8:37 a.m., my life and the lives of the other 183 families were altered forever," Dolan said as she fought back tears. "The Sept. 11 attacks changed the world and the families of the victims. This ring around my neck was Bob's graduation ring from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Fourteen of Bob's shipmates from the Naval Academy died that day.
"Today, I believe all 184 men, women and children are his shipmates," she continued. "They may not have all known each other in life, but they're serving together now."
She said the presentation of the "healing poles" brings the community of families who lost loved ones at the Pentagon three years ago one step further in the healing process.
In closing remarks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed out that the poles arrived in time for the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall.
"That new museum will be a showcase for Native American art; and it's long overdue," Wolfowitz noted. "But as impressive as it is, I expect that there won't be anything in that museum that will have the blessings of so many Native Americans from so many nations. And that makes these poles very special indeed. They bring us together, just as 9/11 did.
"I want to thank you for honoring those heroes as well as the people who died on 9/11," he continued. "By their devotion and service in Afghanistan and Iraq and in places around the world, they are making America safer."
And in the process, Wolfowitz said, "they liberated 50 million people most of them Muslims from the cruelty of dictatorships that denied them their freedom while providing terrorists with safe havens and support."
Wolfowitz said a delegation of Iraqi women leaders was at the White House a few weeks ago when President Bush met with several wounded servicemembers and their families from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Iraqi women were in Washington learning about the workings of democracy.
"When those women saw our wounded servicemen and women, they could not stop thanking them," he said. "With tears, the Iraqi women told them that their sacrifices made political freedom possible in Iraq.
"On 9/11, no one could have guessed that this would be one outcome of the attacks on America," Wolfowitz said. "Another unexpected outcome was the way that tragedy brought us together as Americans."
He recalled the words of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to point out the terrorists didn't plan that their acts would create American unity. "As Secretary Rumsfeld put it, they thought that 'by killing thousands of our citizens they could shake the trust we have in each other, and that they could weaken the glue that holds our society together.'"
Wolfowitz quoted President Bush as saying a few days ago, "On this third anniversary of Sept. 11, we feel the warm courage of national unity a unity of grief and a unity of resolve."
"And, as I said already, I can't think of a better example of this unity than today's event and these beautiful poles that bear the blessings of so many Native Americans," Wolfowitz said.