SUQUAMISH — Motorists on Hwy. 305 Tuesday may have noticed the absence of the totem artwork some here have called an old friend.
Department of Transportation crews Tuesday removed the Agate Pass Totem Pole near the intersection of Hwy. 305 and Suquamish Way. They disposed of the 40-year-old cedar carving at the Suquamish tribe’s request.
According to the agency’s tribal liaison, Colleen Jollie, the Suquamish Tribe has been looking at replacing the pole with more authentic native artwork. An interpretive sign has been made and sitting on the shelf for several years until “a right time” to replace the totem pole came along.
“It seemed like an appropriate time,” Jollie said.
“We were happy to bring more of a Suquamish signature to the area because it is Suquamish tribal land,” she said.
The totem pole was erected almost exactly 40 years ago on April 7, 1962 in association with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21. It sat on the DOT’s right of way in a parking lot adjacent to Hwy 305 at the Agate Pass bridge. The site is within the boundaries of the Port Madison Reservation.
The artwork was created by Wayne Palmer of Bremerton. The brightly painted, 40-foot cedar monument — a gift to the Suquamish Tribe from Palmer — features a tribute to Chief Seattle and Chief Kitsap.
The pole has marked the gateway to Suquamish and was highly valued by many in the community. Rick Feutz, who lives about 300 yards south of the totem pole site and drove by it on his way to work each day, was shocked it had been taken down.
“It’s an untimely end to a piece of art — to have it chainsawed in the street,” he said Wednesday. When he learned the tribe wanted to replace the pole with artwork indigenous to the tribe, he said the ends didn’t justify the means.
“To cut it up for firewood is a waste of a resource,” Feutz said.
That resource and the rights to it were held solely by the tribe, Jollie said. Its members plan to put up a new, yet to be determined artwork and have a dedication ceremony for it in the next few months.
Tribe officials said the pole was cut up, but was disposed of using native traditions. For instance the pole was done away with before dark. When they examined the pole, its center appeared to be rotted, officials told Jollie. It was apparently “an accident waiting to happen,” she said.
Jollie has been meeting with Suquamish Museum and tribal center officials to develop new artwork for the site.