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R.J. Marx
Seaside Signal

SEASIDE, Ore. — A little over a year ago, students at Seaside High School launched a unique tribal history course, with the goal to develop and install a 20 to 40-foot cedar pole on the roadside along the driveway between Pacific Ridge Elementary School, the high school and middle school.

Two cedar logs delivered by Weyerhaeuser are ready for pickup and delivery to Quinault Nation carvers Guy Capoeman and Cecil Capoeman in Washington state. After the logs are finished curing, the Capoemans, known in the area for his welcome poles in the Pacific Northwest, will spend much of the next year working on the project, driven by input from Seaside students in the Native American history class led by Bill Westerholm and Kriste York.

In late August, students gathered at the site to provide a glimpse of the progress and tasks ahead.

“We’ve got a group of kids that are making this into a learning center area, with a real focus on who the Clatsop-Nehalem tribe was in the past, and who they are right now,” Westerholm said.

The area will have seating and benches that will accommodate a class or members of the public, he said, along with a log shelter, a replica of a Native American longhouse. Signage up the slope will provide a historical narrative of the Clatsop-Nehalem tribe, who inhabited the area for centuries, with a replica of the tribal cedar dugout canoe known as “The Dragonfly” and a retelling, in words and pictures, of Native legends.

The class, which met throughout August, was divided into three groups, one working on grants to fund the project, a “learning group” involved with design and a third to work on the path.

Students Aidet Nolazco, Shelby Curtis and Haylee Anderson had never worked on a grant proposal.

“This project just seemed pretty cool,” Nolazco said. “And it seems awesome to be able to welcome people into our community and our new school district.”

Anderson is working on one of the larger grants to cover the cost of carving, an estimated $65,000.

Curtis has found a small community grant, and is waiting for the application period to open for a big grant that opens for applications on Nov. 1.

Chance McKeown, Cyrus Watson and Desi Ramirez of the learning center group will create the interpretative signage for the project and will be working on improving the area around the pole with picnic benches, a fire pit and landscaping.

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Abraham Archibald, also a member of the learning center group, said they set out to have an area to learn about the Native Americans, especially for the younger kids with the elementary school.

“I think it’s nice that we got that figured out in a way that we can learn about it,” Archibald said.

The trail is in the planning stage, student Jake White said. “We’re getting all the measurements down. We’re going to put concrete down, with stone on top, give it that ‘outside’ look.’”

“The more you walk, the more to the present day it’ll get,” trail committee member Madden Wunderlich said. “Once you reach the welcome pole, it will have a present day sign. It will explain their past and all they’ve been through.”

Jordan Westerholm said he’s been a “workhorse” so far, putting stakes in the ground for signage and drawing a layout for the path.

The area, adjacent to a wetland pond, could also be available as an outdoor classroom.

A Clatsop tribal history course is being offered in the winter term and will focus more on the historical but will also have aspects of continuing the pole work.

A ceremony is planned once the pole is up, York said, with the community invited to be part of that. “We wouldn’t turn down donations from the public,” she said.

A ceremony with students, citizens of the tribe and members the community is planned once the installation is complete.

“We’re going to meet quite a bit this school year,” Bill Westerholm said. “Our plan is that next year, the pole will be in the ground.”

For information on how to contribute to the project, contact Westerholm at or kyork@seasidek12.or.

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This story was published in AP Storyshare.