A Call to Carvers Scälla, Pauline Hillaire
My name is Pauline Hillaire. I come from the Lummi Nation. My Indian name is Scälla, which means “Of the Killer Whale.” I’m making an all-out call for young people with dreams and visions for the future of their children and the survival of their children. To carve, some of you think it’s a mystery, but no. You’ve got to have heart, and I know you do. To carve as the Coast Salish people did, you’ve got to have heart. It has also been said, “Once a carver, always a carver.” The love of cedar or whatever medium is used, the love of the stories, the adventure of the entire event, from picking up the carving tool and picking the right tree or other medium, featuring in your mind, at first, the final carved product — every work of this art becomes a work of love, not just a challenge. To say, “Once a carver, always a carver,” becomes a challenge to the workings of your mind as a young carver. Carving, no matter how long, brings more to the surface of the art than you expect. You’ve already become a storyteller or a historian once you carve, once you study the totem pole and finally cover and add your personal touch to it. Your world has expanded without your knowing it. You are already a very important person to your family and your community without knowing it. It may be better if you don’t know it. Please hear this story.
My father learned from his father, who was born in about 1846. He also learned from his grandfather Salaphalano, a priest of the Longhouse tradition who must have been born close to 1800. Without a formal education, my father built a two-story home for us. And this is how I know a carver can switch from art to building, and building may be an art. And so he built this two-story house for us. Sadly, it was burned down. It was on the corner of Slater Road and Lake Terrell Road. Now that spot is empty. It was a beautiful sight to see. It had a stairway that started with a turning spiral of three steps and then fourteen to the upper level. My brother, who was one year old at that time, and I watched as he completed the entire house, and he turned to us and said, “This house belongs to you.” How happy a memory is that, because it was a beautiful home. But without an education to build, without any assistance whatsoever, carving gives you the tools. Carving gives you the tools, the physical and mental and spiritual tools, and the adaptability to switch from carving to building. They’re both art forms requiring similar tools. As Lummi stands now, it has very little history evident to the visitor. A visitor can come and look at the place and see nothing but the birds and the trees and the road and maybe an Indian or two walking. They have no evident history, and that’s what we need. So we need you to present your stories to the community: your interpretation, your knowledge. Carvings are few, and those that are evident are not as obvious to the community or visitor or as close to the history books of recent years as they should be.
Totem poles of various shapes and media around the world hold valuable history of their localities. They carry more than what your school’s history books can say. The heartfelt feelings that caused them to be created remain for centuries beyond their initial creation. History books need help. Families need help. For their history, tribes had best not deny the history you have for your first totem pole. Today’s carvers are standing ready to help you pass along your knowledge with this art. All they need is for you to share. I was never so pleased as when I was seated at a recent funeral and a young man unknown to me came up to me and introduced himself as David Wilson’s son. David Wilson is a very good carver and has a history of carving. And so this young man came up to me and introduced himself to me and was pleased that I was a storyteller and that he received some knowledge from me. And so I was so happy for that opportunity. Please make yourself known wherever you go as a carver. Release that knowledge. Your family needs you, and so does your tribe. Now this history of carving goes a long, long way, mentally and physically, physically and spiritually. Carving is the result of a dream, of a vision, of a spiritual message. It is possible for anyone, any age, and for young people in particular to remember their dreams. And so, my beloved people, when you hear my voice, remember that my voice is carrying a message to you. To you who are listening to me from anywhere, our Indian history is lacking in your knowledge. It is lacking in your spirit of survival. Wounded Knee was only about a hundred years ago. It was not much more than a hundred years ago that Washington State became a state and the tribes were forced to sign peace treaties. But when things are removed, they are always replaced by the Great Spirit. Anything that’s removed by the Great Spirit, like carving, art, history, and love, is replaced, is rebuilt, is revitalized and brought to your children and grandchildren. I thank you for being wherever you are, but we need you. Thank you.
This message is from the book, " A Totem Pole History "