Native American artist Ty Juvinel is finishing a carved cedar panel of the Edmonds Marsh that will stand in front of the Edmonds Historical Museum to honor the heritage of the Coast Salish people.
Juvinel, 32, lives on the Tulalip Reservation north of Marysville. His carving shows two Coast Salish fishermen working in the marsh surrounded by animals and plants the Indians used for food and medicine.
“The carving is the story of how societies used to work in harmony with nature,” Juvinel said. “It’s a relationship we need to get back to.”
Thousands of years before the first settlers arrived, the Edmonds Marsh was a summer destination for many Coast Salish tribes. They would canoe to the marsh for salmon, shellfish, reeds and other plants. Sometimes they would camp, tipping their canoes over for shelter.
The marsh and beach were also meeting places where tribes would trade, exchange news and meet relatives. Janet Smoak, director of the Suquamish Museum, said marriages were sometimes arranged at marsh meeting grounds between different tribes.
Juvinel is carving a panel 6 feet wide and 3 feet high. The characters in the panel will be carved at three different depths in the four-inch-thick wood. Juvinel is working in the Salish carving style that features many crescents and other symbols. The style was used by the tribes living along the southern end of Puget Sound.
“What’s unique about the Edmonds carving is how it’s giving homage to the marsh,” he said. “Salish carvings are often about the ocean, with killer whales.”
Juvinel works full time at the Tulalip carving shop, but he is also a painter and a writer of children’s books. His family tree stretches across thousands of miles. His father came from Paraguay. One cousin is a Navajo hoop dancer. Some of his ancestors were carvers and medicine men. Some were Snohomish, some Skykomish, and others were Yakima.
Ty’s mother, Lorna Juvinel, graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in medicine. Her mother — Ty’s grandmother, Grace Goedel — was a cultural leader at the Tulalip reservation. She taught children Lushootseed, the native tongue of the Coast Salish and the 13 tribes that share the Tulalip reservation. She started a summer camp where kids learn the Lushootseed tongue and old legends.
Ty Juvinel remembers his grandmother talking about canoe trips along the Salish Sea to marshes where she could dig for clams.
“They would canoe all day, moving with the tide,” he said. “They had to be prepared to stay overnight on the beach if the tide was against them.”
The summer camps at the marshes and beaches were important for surviving the winter months, when the Coast Salish kept to their longhouses and ate dried salmon. As European explorers and settlers arrived, the marshes were important sites for sharing information about how to survive new diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis. Northwest historians say plagues nearly wiped out the Coast Salish people.
When the Salish were moved to reservations, they continued to canoe across the sound to trade with the settlers. Indian canoes from the Suquamish, Port Gambler S’Kallam and Tulalip reservations were common along the beaches of Edmonds into the first decades of the 20th century.
There is not much evidence of this history in Edmonds today. Ty Juvinel’s carving, sponsored by the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society, is meant to acknowledge this heritage.
Juvinel started carving when he was 11 years old. Several senior carvers at the reservation’s shop acted as mentors while his skills developed. His work is displayed at the National Indian Gaming Association’s office in Washington, D.C., in Olympia at the Billy Frank Jr. Low Income Housing Institute and at various sites on the Tulalip reservation.
Juvinel lives on the reservation with his wife Jackie and their two children.
He is carving the Edmonds Museum interpretive panel thanks to a major donation from the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation. Donations from the public are also needed to complete the museum’s north plaza that will surround the carving.
You can learn more at this link.
— By Jim Landers