'She was an inspiration to a lot of people'
September 18, 2012 · Updated 4:17 PM
LITTLE BOSTON — This was a day Geneva Ives, education advocate and mother, would have liked: Children singing songs they learned in the S'Klallam language. Young people offering prayers and singing prayer songs, actively involved in their faith. The community pulling together to accomplish a major task.
Family friend Ted George said the things that were most important to Ives — culture, learning and faith — "are alive and thriving today."
A memorial pole honoring Ives (1923-2009) was raised in Little Boston Sept. 14. Appropriate that the pole and the events of the day were educational experiences: The pole was carved by her son, Joe Ives, and apprentices Ray Ives, Kevin Jones, and Francisco James Smith. And it was the first pole-raising witnessed by most young people there that day; the last pole-raising at Port Gamble S'Klallam was in 2003.
Raising the pole was no small task. Carved of old-growth cedar, the pole weighs 2,000 pounds, according to Joe Ives. It was trailered to the parking lot outside the S'Klallam Gym, where Pat John sang a blessing song as a group of women brushed the pole with cedar boughs. A group of volunteers placed planks under the pole. Then, as the S'Klallam Singers sang a prayer song, the volunteers lifted the pole and carried it a short distance to the site where it would be raised, next to the S’Klallam Career and Education Center. Men held the pole steady with ropes as others carefully pushed it up into place. It was then secured to a vertical steel beam.
Ives, the lead carver, said the owl at the top of the pole represents his mother, because the owl was her favorite animal. Within its wings is a baby owl, symbolizing family. Next is a figure with a canoe paddle, representing the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe. Next is a mother bear with a halibut in her mouth; halibut was his mother's favorite food. The mother bear is sharing the halibut with two bear cubs. Faces on the owl's wings, in the bear's eyes, and on the halibut represent children his mother cared for.
Gene Jones Sr. said the pole raising was "a long time coming."
He said Geneva Ives took him in when his parents had to leave to care for a relative. He had missed 10 days of high school and the principal threatened to expel him. The principal asked if there was someone he could stay with who could ensure he got to school. "I was hesitant to call Geneva, because she had seven children of her own," Jones said. The school called her. "She said, 'Send him right over.'" Jones went on to graduate from high school.
Ives was the first Port Gamble S'Klallam person to graduate from a public high school — North Kitsap, Class of 1941 — and because of that "she was an inspiration to a lot of people," Jones said.
She saw the importance of education and became an advocate, assisting any S’Klallam child who wanted to attend school. “If a family was having a hard time and the kids needed a place [to stay], she would take them in just to keep them in school,” her son, Joe, said. He said she helped eight to 10 students this way.
According to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Ives worked diligently to improve the Tribal education system and related programs. She taught beadwork, language, and traditional foods and medicine; worked as an assistant at the medical clinic; and retired as a clerk at the S'Klallam Smokeshop. She played accordion, guitar, harmonica and piano. She was a faithful member of the S’Klallam Worship Center.
At the pole-raising ceremony, the pastor of the S’Klallam Worship Center, which is affiliated with the Assembly of God Church, asked the Ives family for permission to present her name for the church's Native American Fellowship Convocation Medal of Honor, in recognition of her service to her faith.