Lummi master carver awarded Human Rights Award

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Jewell Praying Wolf James, master carver of the Lummi Nation, has received the Human Rights Award from the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force.

James received the honor on May 22 at Faith Lutheran Church in Bellingham. The annual awards recognize individuals and groups who have made a positive impact on human rights in Whatcom county.

James was master carver of the Lummi Nation's Healing Pole, which was carved in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The pole's journey from Lummi to New York City was accompanied by healing ceremonies conducted by American Indian tribes along the way.

"I know that adults were impressed, but my greatest joy was knowing a lot of children were impressed too," James said.

James carved "Story of Conservation of the Salmon," a totem pole that tells the stories of bear and salmon and raven and salmon. The pole is used to teach younger people about the importance of conserving salmon.

James will also carve a pole to be displayed at Semiahmoo Spit, the site of a grave desecration in 1999. He will carve the pole from two eight-foot old-growth cedar logs from the Quinault Tribe.

Aaron Thomas, Lummi Nation's public affairs director, said of James, "Jewell is a representation of our people. [The award] brings attention to some of the work that the Lummi Nation is doing to enhance tribal sovereignty, partnerships and goodwill toward others."

James, a descendant of Chief Seattle, is a member of the Lummi Indian Business Council. He has decades of involvement in local, national and international efforts to preserve the natural environment and improve understanding between cultures.

One of the eight founders of the National Tribal Environmental Council, James also served as the original chairman of the Florence R. Kluckhohn Center for the Study of Values.

He was active in national efforts to secure passage of U.S. Senate and House resolutions recognizing the Iroquois and Choctaw Confederacies of Nations as models for the U.S. Constitution.

James has served the Lummi people in many roles, including coordinating the Lummi Treaty Protection Task Force; organizing the development of the Lummi Culture Protection Department; and helping to secure funds to purchase and protect several sites, including Portage Island and Arlecho Creek Old Growth Forest.

He serves as chairman of the board of the Moon's Prayer Foundation and as president of the House of Tears Carvers.

Also a Northwest Coast spirit dancer and Indian cedar prayer flute player, James is a lifelong resident of Lummi Reservation, where he lives with his wife and three children.

The Whatcom Civil Rights Project was founded in the fall of 2001. It is a joint collaboration of the Law and Diversity Program of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, LAW Advocates, and the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force.

The task force provides free legal assistance and advocacy to victims of discrimination and civil rights abuse in Whatcom County.

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