Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Totem Park and The Elliot Point Treaty

As a homeschool mom, when I think about things to teach the boys, my mind wanders to back when I was in school. I was not the best student for sure. Because how we were taught was not the way I learned best. I was blessed to be able to read with ease, and I’d rather have lived in a cloud of books when I was young. Sitting in a chair for 8+ hours was very hard for me. It was so incredibly boring. I know now, in modern times, I would have potentially been numbed with pharmas best, so I would function like a good drone. But it wasn’t that I was dumb, stupid or lazy – I was just bored. There was so little we were taught. I once got into a heated argument with my history teacher in high school – and he flunked me for the entire class over it, as he did my best friend, to punish us for questioning his teaching. I barely graduated due to having to retake that class as a Senior so I could be done. Why was I punished? It was nearly the 90’s and the “World History” book plunked down on my desk in my Junior Year was both so full of inaccuracies, written by colonial mindset, and also so thin of information at the same time. The biggest sections were Manifest Destiny, Expansion, and how mighty America saved the Free World (I’d only learn about The Order that came out of the end of WWII in my late 40’s). As a child, of mixed ancestry, I didn’t learn about my own history in school. It didn’t matter. At 17, I was angry when the history teacher told me women didn’t matter, and neither did anyone who wasn’t a white male from Europe/America (he was a real charmer). I wanted to matter, to have someone talk about the WORLD. Not just America. Not just Europe. Not just about “the winners”. The internet was a gift to me as I got older and could actually learn more.

You might wonder….”Sarah, what does this have to do with hiking?”

Well, it does quite a bit.

If you follow the blog, you might see here and there that the boys and I go on walks to learn about history. To touch it, to see it, to simply experience it. To not just sit in a chair, learning only the tiniest bit of history and then the next day we are onto something 100 years later. Hiking in many areas has so much history wrapped into it. The first time I visited The Great Smokies, I was overwhelmed with all the history there. And oh I could learn it. It was presented in a way I understood. Pioneer graveyards? Old settlements? Let me walk, to stand and listen to the energy there. To feel how it must have felt. Put your hands on the trees, on the ground and simply exist to feel.

And this is how we learn. I want them to be vested in the history of where we go. Of all the sides. Not just the winners.

We visited two areas on this outing. But both just a few short blocks apart. And both are in places that people speed by, without noticing it’s even there.

The ghost ferry slipping into the dock in the fog at the ferry dock in Clinton, Wa (on the end of Whidbey Island). It’s free to walk off the island onto the ferry here.

Within a few minutes the fog suddenly disappeared and the sun came out hot and shining. OK, not really hot…just full sun always feels that way at sea level.

We walked on, and took the ferry to Mulkiteo, which sits on the other side of the water.

From there we walked back to Hwy 525 (Mulkiteo Speedway) on sidewalks, and then uphill till we reached our first destination, Totem Park.

I cannot tell you how many times I have driven by this tiny park in my life. It sits just a short bit to where the old ferry dock was (the “new” dock is now a few more blocks away). I am sure I sat there glazed over, pondering if I’d make the ferry, and never noticed it. Because honestly? It looks more like a parking strip with a massive old tree and sandwich boards touting….skin care and a new bakery coming. Classy for sure.

This park has an odd history though. It was only built when the bridge a few feet down was built. The bridge spanned the railroad tracks just above the water (the whole area down there used to be tidelands, and was reclaimed long ago to make more land). It took years for it become an actual park, and not be a blight on the area.

The totem pole is not native art, and that to some is highly troubling (are totem poles by non Indigenous people OK at all? Is it culture appropriation?). It was made by hand, not with a chainsaw, and represents the history of Mulkiteo. It was well carved, and has neat designs, but still one has to wonder would it have been made now. These are great discussions to have as one stands above the Puget Sound, looking across at the Olympic and Cascade Mountains – and towards our home.

Commercial buildings though really wreck the views however. Mt. Baker is seen across the water.

We carried on walking, heading further uphill (this being the general feature of Mulkiteo….it’s either uphill or down, and it’s steep)

On the corner of 3rd and Lincoln Ave is the Elliot Point Treaty Signing Landmark, from the year of 1855.

The monument was made in 1930, and erected in 1931. It is on the National Register in fact.

If one walks up a set of wide stairs (one can also go up the sidewalk and enter at the top) is wide area.

This sits below the Rosehill Community Center, which is the 3rd version of a building here on the site. (It was originally a school for students, with its first class being only 29 pioneer children – which is featured on the totem pole).

The views from this spot look across to Mount Baker, and as you walk, you can see Camano Island, Whidbey Island, Possession Sound and a lot more.

This spot should be more recognized for what happened here all those years ago. It’s just jarring how little is done for it.

This was a huge piece of history – 82 chiefs/leaders were there in 1855. Trying to salvage what they could. Chief Seattle was there, as was the leaders of the Lummi, the Swinhomish (Lower Skagit Tribe – the people that lived on Whidbey Island) and even as far as the Snoqualmie Tribe, who has ancestral lands into the Cascade Mountains outside of Seattle.

We sat and simply talked about it all. About what mattered then, and how that treaty is still a binding contract between 2 nations, and is the law of the land. How their lives, and their descendants would change so rapidly, often in very bad ways. One must talk about the unpleasant history always. See here for the treaty to read.

Then to lighten the mood, we visited The Mulkiteo Chocolate Company, got a treat and hiked back downhill in the sun to catch the ferry back to our island.

We put in a number of miles and had a good morning being free. I’d hope they learned more than I did when I was their ages.


One thought on “Local Adventures: Totem Park and The Elliot Point Treaty

  1. What a great trip to take your boys on, so much to learn and know about….it’s amazing to me, how the smallest details to be pointed out, can serve as building blocks for other important knowledge. What a great job you’re doing. I’ve got two boys, too…..and I love to teach them about history. I was a stay-at home dad for their younger years and was very hands-on, I loved field trips, reading, history for kids, etc. They’re in school now, though. I’m not homeschooling them like you are. What you’re doing now is on an entirely different level and I salute you.

    What a horrible history teacher you had for that class, the kinds of things he told you. But I guess some of those things like that, that seem patently outrageous now……..were fairly common, ugh. I shudder to think of kids whose identities were literally erased by virtue of attending school. And of course, we still have plenty of patently outrageous things about school to still deal with. Even some of the same kinds of attitudes.


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