Suquamish Elders bless Olympic College site

"POULSBO - Gray skies and rain gave way to warm weather Wednesday afternoon as officials from Olympic College and the Suquamish Tribe made a path through scrub brush and felled trees at the proposed campus site on Poulsbo's northwestern edge. It was a good omen. The sun is coming out, Olympic College president Carl Jonietz observed quietly. This is auspicious. Arriving at the chosen spot, new Suquamish Elder Gene Jones led the group through the ritual blessing of the land. Six candles were lit, one placed on the ground, the others distributed to members of the tribe. Father we know you will take care of the land and the trees - even though they are not here - we know their spirits will be taken care of, Jones said. This is an important part of our spirituality... to see the trees before they are taken down. Trees have always been sacred to our people, he explained, noting that logs were used by the Suquamish for houses, twigs for baskets and cedar shavings for traditional clothing and ceremonial costumes. The trees have a life, they have a spirit, just like you and me. The Suquamish gathered and sang for the community, while Jones rang special bells and chanted in tribute to the land and its peoples. The experience brought the two cultures one step closer together to discovering a common vision that will serve them both - a campus of higher education. It's going to be a great learning institute for our people, Jones said during the opening prayer. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to see beautiful things, you will see beautiful things. I think we will see beautiful things at the new campus. Maxine Jones pointed out education, at all levels, was important and that she felt the new college would serve to benefit the Suquamish people. She also expressed hope that cedar trees would be planted in order to provide a dry place for students and visitors. Morrie Miller, Suquamish tribal member and a trustee for the college, furthered this idea, explaining the significance of the tree spirit in the world and its vital role in providing good air and clean water. Miller was joined at the event by his wife Colleen and his thirteen-month-old grandson Dylan Neal. This is a great acknowledgment by Olympic College, Miller said. These trees have sacrificed their existence so we could have a college campus. Frank Lawrence (Jones' right-hand man) echoed the Tribe's viewpoints, as did the Suquamish Elders who were present for the ceremony. You have honored us, Jonietz told the group. We couldn't have had a better start. It makes me feel good when our cultures come together, Jones remarked. I have learned that everything's going to change - this will be a change for the better. "

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