The future meets the past in Snoqualmie

February 13, 2013

By Staff

Among canoes, bowls and ancient tree trunks, two cultures inched closer together in Snoqualmie.

“We’re happy to have you come,” Bruce Larson, a carver with the Snoqualmie Tribe told exchange students from Peru. “It makes our hearts feel good.”

By Sebastian MoragaBruce Larson, a carver with the Snoqualmie Tribe teaches exchange student Roberto Guanilo the intricacies of his art.

By Sebastian Moraga
Bruce Larson, a carver with the Snoqualmie Tribe teaches exchange student Roberto Guanilo the intricacies of his art.

Members of the Snoqualmie Tribe taught their centenarian carving art to the students Feb. 6. Students mixed their attempts at carving hearts or their initials with wide-eyed stares at the felled tree trunks.

“There are no mistakes,” Larson told the students. “There’s just design changes.”

Students learned about using maple or cedar, the angle needed on the tools to carve big or small pieces of wood.

They also asked questions about the origin of their hosts.

“Is this like an NGO?” asked student Ernesto Riedner about the tribe, referring to nongovernmental organizations.

They also learned the entire process of making a canoe, from cutting the tree to taking the finished product for a sail.

The trip starts at the Snoqualmie River, goes to the Snohomish, and then to the Skykomish and then to Puget Sound, said Wayne Graika, a member of the tribe.

“Everything is done by hand,” Larson said, then adding, “we use a chainsaw to make the planks.”

The tribe made no canoes for decades until the early 2000s, Larson said.

The Makah Indians taught them, Graika said.

The students kept a steady line of chatter, only quieting when the carvers showed them something. They attempted to climb the language barrier to ask questions in English, but mostly kept a respectful silence, until they learned what the Makah used the canoes for.

“Whales?” student Ximena Lopez asked.

“How do you hunt a whale in a canoe?” Riedner asked.

“It takes 14 of us, one to steer it, and somebody to be a harpooner,” Larson explained. “That’s on my list, to make, a harpoon.”

The silence broke again when they saw the felled trees.

“It’s huge,” said Riedner while staring at one tree, whose rings numbered more than 800.

The trees come donated from national parks and watersheds, Graika said.

“We’ve only paid for one or two trees in the six, seven years I’ve been here,” said Graika, one of five carvers working at Snoqualmie Carvers near downtown Snoqualmie.

While the students were quiet, the carvers told them the trees do plenty of talking.

“It will start to tell you where to make the first cut,” Larson said. “The tree talks to us. There’s time where nothing would cut, so it says, ‘Stop, look at me, there’s something I want different. It’s called reawakening the spirit within the wood.”

Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or

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