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Pole dedication makes history

KINGSTON — The sun was shining brightly on Wolfle Elementary School and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe during a celebration for the ages as seven months of hard work were honored by both groups, friends, family and neighbors.

The culmination was the raising of a story pole and the recognition of community bonds Wednesday.

With its intricate carvings complete, the pole was finally ready to be shown off for all North Kitsap to see.

“This all started at the end of March,” said Wolfle first grade teacher Linda Middlebrook. “Jake Jones (who was one of the carvers) provided the log, and it started from there.”

The story pole is comprised of three distinct figures: a watchman at the bottom, an orca whale in the middle, and an eagle at the top.

Port Gamble S’Klallam carvers Jake Jones, Floyd Jones and Ed Charles created the beautiful structure that will stand in front of the elementary school for present and future generations of children to enjoy.

“It looks pretty good,” carver Floyd Jones admitted while admiring the totem pole before the ceremony. “We worked on this four or five hours a day (since March) depending on the weather.”

He credited Charles for putting the finishing touches on the pole.

“Ed fined tuned it and helped us finish it up,” Floyd Jones said. “This pole is a great thing pulling the communities together,” he said. “It brings about closer relationships.”

Longtime Wolfle principal Ben Degnin agreed.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s a symbolism of unity for our school,” he said. “Today is a historic day that’s not just about today — it’s about yesterday, today and the future. Every day when students arrive for school they will see the pole, and every day when they go home from school they will see the pole.”

Carver Joe Ives also lent a hand with the piece.

“Joe helped us finish it. I hurt my thumb and he was helping us all the way until the last day,” Jake Jones said. “We all worked on the pole for a very long time.”

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Council vice chairman Harry Fulton, who attended Wolfle as a first grader in 1951, was in attendance for the dedication.

“I hope everyone here realizes how much this means to us,” he said. “It means the world to us and is long overdue. It’s a beautiful pole and will be here for a long time.”

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal elder Ted George said he is glad the story pole will be around for future generations students.

“Today is a very special occasion,” he said. “This is a beautiful piece of art that will be here forever.”

Degnin said the newly constructed story pole at Wolfle probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Middlebrooks’ efforts.

“Without her this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Three years ago she had this idea and started doing the grant writing. She really pushed everything and made it happen.”

Mary Jones of Wolfle agreed.

“Linda has done a lot to build a bridge between S’Klallam and Wolfle,” she said. “She has a respect for people and the culture.”

Middlebrook couldn’t wipe the emotion off of her face during the dedication. She uttered eight words that summed up he festivities: “The story pole was just meant to be.”

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