Tribal members return to NYC to visit Tomanowos

06.14.2012 Michelle Alaimo Culture, People, History

By Michelle Alaimo

Smoke Signals photographer

NEW YORK CITY -- Tribal member Lisa Archuleta, Tribal Services Representative for the Portland area office, said during her first visit to Tomanowos, "As soon as I walked into the museum, I felt the energy. It was very strong, very powerful."

Archuleta was participating in the Tribe's annual private ceremony with Tomanowos, the 15.5-ton Willamette meteorite that was found 110 years ago in modern-day West Linn near Willamette Falls. The ceremony took place at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, which has been Tomanowos' home since 1906, on Monday, June 11.

For Archuleta, the ceremony was very moving and she said she was glad she made the trip.

Also attending the ceremony was Tribal Council Secretary Jack Giffen Jr., Tribal Council member June Sherer, Tribal Elders Kathryn Harrison, Patsy Pullin (Harrison's daughter), Nancy Coleman, Arlene Kautz and Evelyn Seidel, Tribal members Travis Stewart and his daughter, Sophia Morningstar-Stewart, Chris Bailey, Braden Ebensteiner, Jeremy Lane, Kathy Cole and her son, Tribal descendant Zack Edwards.

Also present at the ceremony were Esther Stewart, Travis' wife and Sophia's mother, Tribal Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor and Seidel's sister-in-law, Jean Nolan.

The Tribal contingent made the trip from the West Coast to New York City for the 12th year of the Tribe's private ceremony, with two years missed because of economic reasons in 2009 and 2011.

The private ceremony was led by Stewart, Tribal Youth Education Culture specialist, and Harrison gave the blessing. For Giffen, this was the third time he has participated in the ceremony. He said he was very impressed with Stewart, saying he is a young, spiritual leader and was honored to be present.

Tribal youths Ebensteiner and Lane were chosen for this year's Internship Program, which is a partnership between the Tribe and museum. They gave a brief history of Tomanowos and the relationship between the museum and Tribe, and the Internship Program.

The Internship Program allows Grand Ronde Tribal youth to work at the museum every summer, giving them an opportunity to learn about Tomanowos and the museum, and experience New York City, something that they may never get to do without the program.

Cole, Cultural Resources Department program manager, spoke in Chinuk Wawa, saying how happy she was to be attending. About Tomanowos, she said, "It has spirit power. I think you can feel that still."

Cole gave more history about the meteorite, including how the holes in it collected water and Native warriors dipped their arrows in the water for good luck. Young people would visit Tomanowos to get spirit power or puberty rites, and other Native peoples would go to become healed or grow stronger.

Today, for the first time, Cole saw Tomanowos in person. She said she has seen pictures and heard about it, but she said she could feel power off it and it gave her chills.

The ceremony was then open for Tribal members to wash Tomanowos with rose hip water and say and leave their prayers. Stewart, Ebensteiner, Bailey, Tribal Youth Education High School lead, Cole and Edwards sang a prayer song led by Stewart.

Bailey, who is the chaperone for Ebensteiner and Lane, talked about his second time seeing Tomanowos. Referring to the meteorite as "he," Bailey said that "he" has taken the Tribe places, "he's" teaching lessons and teaching other people about the Tribe.

Bailey said he believes that the meteorite was meant to be moved and ended up in New York City for these teachings. He said that there are people in New York who don't realize there are still Native Americans and through the Internship Program, Ebensteiner and Lane are teaching people about not only the scientific aspect of Tomanowos, but what "he" means to us and where "he" came from so that people will see that Native Americans still exist.

Bailey said he's glad the interns have the opportunity to come to New York City and added that he never would have come if it wasn't for this opportunity due to Tomanowos. After all, if Tomanowos were not at the museum, the Internship Program would not exist.

For Seidel, it was her first time seeing Tomanowos and she said that it was amazing to wash it. She said she felt the energy and said that Tomanowos needs to come home to Oregon. Kautz made her second trip for the ceremony and was glad a lot of people were able to attend.

Harrison said she thinks it's very important to visit Tomanowos every year to "give support, to show not only Tomanowos, but the people of the museum that it's ours. We lay a claim to it every time we come and that needs to stay."

On Tuesday, June 12, the Grand Ronde delegation met with museum staff at the museum for breakfast and a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum's anthropology collection, where they viewed numerous Native American artifacts, including some Grand Ronde baskets.