Welcoming figure awakening ceremony celebrates bond between Edmonds Waterfront Center, Coast Salish people

The welcoming figure depicting a grandmother and granddaughter stands at the main doors to the Waterfront Center

An estimated 150 community members gathered on Friday morning at the Edmonds Waterfront Center to be part of the formal dedication and awakening of the newest piece of public art to grace that facility. Carved from a cedar log by Coast Salish artist and woodcarver Ty Juvinel, it depicts a grandmother presenting a rattle to her granddaughter, symbolizing the passing of culture between generations. Placed in front of the main doors to the center and oriented to face west in the direction of the Tulalip lands, its outstretched hands convey a traditional Coast Salish welcome, inviting visitors to land on the beach, come inside, and celebrate with the community.

“Bringing the community and the generations together is at the heart of what we do,” said Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson in his opening remarks. “The Waterfront Center is a place to gather, learn and celebrate. It’s like our longhouse. This figure is a reminder of the spirit shared among all living things, how we’re connected, and our responsibility to take care of the planet and each other.”

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson stressed the importance of following the Coast Salish example of valuing and protecting natural resources.

Johnson then turned the podium over to Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who related a statement of Juvinel’s from a video about the carving of this work posted on the Waterfront Center website.

“He said that he kept the piece horizontal during the entire process, because it would be disrespectful to the spirit of the cedar log to raise it before the work was complete,” Nelson related. “For me this was a potent reminder of the importance of living in harmony with nature, something Indigenous people have always understood.  Just think if we treated our natural resources the way Indigenous people do.” (See Juvinel’s full video here)

Woodcarver Ty Juvinel explains the symbolism in his work

Next to the podium was Juvinel himself, who spoke of how an elder once told him that each of us is given gifts, but it is up to us to find them.

“For me, the gift is woodcarving,” he remarked.  “I wasn’t really looking for it — I kind of stumbled on it. But when I found it, it became my responsibility to share it.  For others the gift may be drumming, music, dancing or storytelling — but once found, it’s there to be shared.”

Flutist George Montero performs.

In that vein, Juvinel introduced Native American flutist George Montero, who over the past 20 years has become nationally recognized for his musicianship and cultural messaging.

“I’m Tlingit, I’m from Juneau, and I have a very high amount of pride in that,” Montero said as he took the podium to perform. “I am honored to be here today to give honor to this totem that is all about the spirit of motherhood. The cedar is our tree relative, and with our art we craft it into a story for future generations.  Listen, and you will feel the pulse of the mother and hear her heartbeat.”

Coast Salish members pause for a photo with the welcoming figure.
Edmonds resident Diana White, a member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Indians, prepared traditional fry bread to share at the ceremony.

Montero was then joined by a group of Coast Salish drummers, singers and dancers who shared their talents with attendees. They were followed by Juvinel’s aunt, Lisa Monger, who read a poem written to her by her husband a year before his death, celebrating the gifts and sacrifices of their ancestors and to always remember that they are Coast Salish people.

The ceremony ended with women and girls adding their personal energy, touch and spirit to the work by painting the figure’s feet, which Juvinel left unfinished for this purpose.

The ceremony concluded with Juvinel inviting all the women in attendance to participate in putting the finishing touches on the work by taking a brush and applying paint to the figure’s feet, a section he left unfinished for this purpose.

“This work symbolizes the special role of mothers,” he explained. “We are all raised by many different mothers. One you are born with — others you find and inspire you. Each one passes things to you, just as the grandmother in this carving passes the rattle symbolizing traditional culture, knowledge and wisdom to her granddaughter. I invite the women here today to convey their spiritual energy to this figure by adding paint to the unfinished area.”

In a fitting conclusion to the ceremony, more than 50 women and girls of all ages lined up, took a paintbrush and added a piece of themselves to what will stand as an enduring symbol of culture and values that will welcome visitors to the Edmonds Waterfront Center for generations to come.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. This is wonderful! Thanks to all the various groups that came together to make this come together. A lovely sentiment too.

  2. This a beautiful, symbolic piece that helps unite the City of Edmonds and it’s residents with the indigenous coastal Salish people. Thank you to all who made this happen.

  3. Yes, wonderful! And what a nice touch to let people add a personal touch to the sculpture! It’s beautiful.

    1. Sisters! As a proud Rotary Edmonds Daybreakers And named donor to Waterfront Center, I add my blessing to Grandmothers carved feet. Raised in Spokane, I inherited the tiny beaded baby mocassins a buck sewed himself and brought to my grandad on a tiny dirt farm near Latah. A gift from the buck and his squahfor the arrival of my mom in 1909. Grandad let the Indians cull his meager potato fields and they were showing appreciation. Mom was 9 out of 11 living children. Nancy Flower Stender Crim. 22 year resident on Hemlock

  4. How wonderful that we have this to see every time we come to the center.
    Thank you Ty Juvinel for sharing your gift of carving with us, which over the years will remind us, that we are the guests, on this land of the indigenous Coast Salish people that have tended it since before we can even remember.
    It is heart felt for me to know that we are all still here together.
    In appreciation,
    Ingrid Wolsk

  5. Thank you Ty Juvinel, and everyone who made this happen, what a gift to Edmonds and our Waterfront Center.

  6. Mr. Juvinel thank you for inviting us to the awakening ceremony. It was beautiful and moving, and I’m still thinking about it. Very special.

  7. Thank you, Larry for the wonderful story and pictures.
    This is just another reminder of the depth and spiritual meanings of the original inhabitants of the Coast Salish Sea. What a stunning welcoming carving. Thank you, Ty Juvinel for embodying that maternal instinct and what a wonderful touch to allow women to help finish the piece. Lovely and a cherished memory for many and a wonderful end to the EWC’s building’s journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.