THE TWIN BEAR STORY POLE
In the fall of 2005, Rand Jack found a 300+
year-old red cedar log in the log yard of the Oeser Company in
Bellingham, Washington. A tag on the log indicated that it had
been cut down by Georgia Pacific in 1982 at the base of the Twin
Sisters in Whatcom County, Washington, near the confluence of
Hayden and Fish Creeks.
Finding this magnificent log inspired Rand
to carve the story pole shown in the images that follow. The
figures on the pole are Rand's version of traditional images
carved on ancient poles by Northwest Coast Native Americans.
The pole depicts the environmental morality tale told below.
On June 27, 2009, under the direction of wilderness bridge and
trail builder Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt, a community of friends moved
the Twin Bear Story Pole from Rand's workshop to its permanent
home at the new children's museum in Bellingham.
The twin baby bears in the mother
bear's womb are a sign of the fecundity of nature that we are
all responsible to protect.
THE STORY OF THE TWIN BEAR POLE
A very long time ago, Raven sat on a sandstone
cliff overlooking the Nooksack River. Raven was a curious, some
would say mischievous, fellow. As he surveyed the landscape from
his lofty perch, everything seemed entirely too calm and orderly
for his taste. Raven was bored. He decided to fly to a world
far away and bring back Humans to this Earth. Certainly that
would shake things up and make life more interesting.
Raven knew that for Humans to get along on
Earth, they would need some help. Humans do not have thick fur
like Bear to keep them warm, and they can't swim in the ocean
like Orca. So from that far away world, Raven brought in his
beak a cedar cone. From the seeds of that cone would grow giant
cedar trees, and Humans would have wooden beams for houses, cedar
bark for clothes, and tree trunks for canoes.
Because Humans could not fly or run very fast,
they would have trouble catching food. So Raven went to the Salmon
People and asked if they would swim up the rivers right to where
Humans lived. The Salmon People were wary. Why should they make
it easy for Humans to eat them? Raven had to bargain hard. He
promised to make the Salmon People into five races, each distinctively
beautiful and fit to survive. Raven also promised that Humans
would always treat the Salmon People with respect.
Raven knew that Humans would need wisdom to
survive on Earth. So Raven went to owl, who had great wisdom.
He asked Owl to share some wisdom with Humans. Owl was skeptical.
She thought sharing with Humans would be a waste of good wisdom.
But Raven was cunning and convinced Owl that even a little wisdom
for Humans would be a great improvement.
Raven understood that if Humans were going
to paddle their cedar canoes in the ocean, they would have to
live in harmony and with respect for Orca, the most powerful
creature of the sea. Raven also understood that if Humans were
going to live in their cedar homes in the forests, they would
have to live in harmony and with respect for Bear, the most powerful
creature of the forest.
If Humans cease to respect Orca and Bear,
Salmon will no longer swim up the rivers. Cedar trees will stop
growing straight and tall as needed for houses, canoes, and story
poles. Humans will no longer be part of the Earth Community.
Some Humans have come to think that they no longer need the Salmon
People to return, the cedars to grow tall and straight, the wisdom
of Owl or membership in the Earth community. Some have stopped
respecting Orca and Bear. But the truth is, Humans need the natural
world just as much today as when Raven brought them and a cedar
cone to this Earth.