A carved cedar panel honoring the heritage of the Coast Salish people was installed on the north side of the Edmonds Historical Museum building Sunday afternoon.
Native American artist Ty Juvinel’s “Marsh Life” is an artistic depiction and window into what life may have been like for Coast Salish communities living in the area. His carving shows two Coast Salish fishermen working in the marsh surrounded by animals and plants the Indians used for food and medicine. The piece demonstrates how the biodiversity and natural resources of the marsh were an important part of Coast Salish traditions and way of life.
The Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society contracted with Juvinel in 2019 to create the panel, which was funded by the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation, the Hubbard Family Foundation and other private donors.
Juvinel lives on the Tulalip Reservation north of Marysville, and works as a carver and on graphic design. He is also a painter and a writer of children’s books, and his work is becoming well known in Edmonds. In addition to the museum carving, he collaborated — through Mural Project Edmonds — with Edmonds artist Andy Eccleshall to create murals honoring Indigenous people in the Main Street alley between 4th and 5th avenues.
Juvinel carved the mural from two 4-inch-thick planks of cedar harvested in the Puget Sound region. A Coast Salish design using positive and negative shapes, the rendering of fisherman and animals includes Coast Salish motifs and symbols handed down over centuries by carvers. The panel is carved at three different depths, using the Salish carving style that features crescents, trigons (or wedges) and ovals — three of the most prominent shapes in Coast Salish design.
He also designed the Coast Salish frogs etched on the skylight shelter. The frog “has been highly regarded within many native communities as a powerful animal, spiritually, physically,” he said. “The reason it’s a sacred animal is it moves between two worlds. It lives in the water and it lives out of the water too. It’s an indication of how healthy our ecosystem is. Marshes are graded on the health of the frog.”
In addition, the work features two side panels that include salmon “guardians” painted blue — the color choice of his 8-year-old daughter. “I was going to paint them red but she just wouldn’t let it go,” Juvinel said, adding that both his daughter and 10-year-old son helped with the painting.
Juvinel did his last bit of carving after installing the panel and guardians. He added eyes. “Once it can see, the carving comes to life,” he explained.
He then performed a blessing of the piece by waving cedar fronds all over the work. One of the fronds was cast into the sea to release all of the anxiety that lingered during the many months spent on the effort.
After more than two years working on the carving, “it’s great to finish,” Juvinel said as he completed the installation Sunday.
Edmonds Museum Board members Ann Wood and Jim Landers managed the project, which reflected the board’s commitment to acknowledging the historical significance of the Coast Salish people to Edmonds. As Landers wrote in his earlier story here, 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 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.
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.
Wood and Landers also acknowledged the work of project designer Clayton Moss, the help of City of Edmonds Arts Program Manager Frances Chapin, and efforts by the City of Edmonds to assist with the carving installation.
The Edmonds Historical Museum is located at 118 5th Ave. N.