Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

NW 'healing' totem pole heading to National Library of Medicine

A brightly colored totem pole was given a send off celebration at the Seattle Center. The carved cedar log is embarking on a 4,000 mile journey.  It’s headed to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit on Native American concepts of  healing.  Master carver Jewell Praying Wolf  James of the Lummi Indian Nation near Bellingham designed the healing totem, as it's called.  He also helped carve it and is driving the totem, which is laid out on the back of a rented flat bed truck, east.

He says stops are planned at nine  Indian reservations across the country and at the Chicago Indian Center in downtown Chicago.

"We’re hoping that it creates awareness that tribal communities have traditional knowledge and traditional medicines that could benefit the future of mankind," James said.

Importance of community

Dr. Donald Lindberg, who directs the National library of Medicine, agrees we have a lot to learn from tribal cultures. Attending the blessing of the totem ceremony in Seattle Lindberg said Native cultures emphasize the importance of taking care of your mental and physical health, advice everyone should follow.

"Native communities also teach that the healthy individual needs to be in a healthy community and have the support of friends and family,” Lindberg said.

Before the truck with the totem left on its journey, fresh water was sprinkled on it with giant tea leaves from Hawaii, a Navajo farewell song was sung and a drumming group from the Yakama Nation performed.

A camera crew is recording the trip and there's a healing totem journey blog to follow as well.

On the Web:

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.