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In Eugene, Tribal Ceremonies Herald Return Of Totem Poles

Local Native Americans held resetting ceremonies for two renovated totem poles for the City of Eugene Saturday.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports. 

At the Amazon Pool, students from the 4J NATIVES Program, tribal elders, and a drum group ushered in the first totem pole.  Brenda Brainard is head of the NATIVES program, and is with the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
A drum group performs at the Amazon Pool Saturday as the renovated totem pole is installed.

“These poles have all been blessed if you will, by the local tribal people," Brainard tells KLCC.  

"We’ve always invited them to participate.  We do have lots of kids who are from local tribes that have helped carve them, helped paint them, helped rehabilitate them.” 

The second pole was installed near the Defazio Bridge.  Whether swimmers or pedestrians, Brainard hopes people have one major takeaway from seeing the totems.

Credit Margaret Bull
Local Native American elders, educators, and students pose with the totem pole at Defazio Bridge Saturday.

“If they can just get that pause moment, to say, “Oh, here were native people, and this is the evidence of what they were and still are,” she says.  "That we’re not old timey.  That we’re still here among them.” 

The City of Eugene asked local natives to help renovate the two poles.  A third was far too worn, so Brainard says they’ll soon start carving a new one that’ll eventually go up at Sheldon High School.

Copyright 2017, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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