Song Carrier, Soul + Transformer
Beaver Lake Park
A trio of cedar house posts impart Coast Salish culture.
Some of the last old-growth cedar logs to come out of the Snoqualmie National Forest were used to create three Coast Salish house posts by artist David Horsley, which can be seen in Beaver Lake Park in Sammamish, WA.
Indigenous to the Puget Sound region, house posts were originally carved from the interior vertical beams that supported the longhouses where the area’s First Peoples lived. They represented the process of reincarnation, passing down family stories over time. Longhouses in Seattle sometimes grew to more than 1,000 feet long as generations built new additions—with more house posts telling more stories.
House posts are teaching tools. The stories can take months to tell and a lot of them have a moral at the end. They cause people to learn about themselves—and to learn about their tribe. –David Horsley, The Seattle Times, 1991Carved and painted in red, black and white, Horsley’s house posts depict several Salish stories, guided by direction he sought from the Sdukʷalbixʷ (Snoqualmie) Tribal Council. Soul shows the journey of the soul through Drum, Otter, Tuhstuhd, Hail, Songs, Frog, and Wolf. Man-That-Becomes-The-Moon (Transformer) uses Eagle, Mountain Goat, Elk and Deer symbols to represent the Transformer, a pre-eminent spirit-being that often appears as more than one being.
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The third house post in Horsley’s original set, Man-Who-Eats-Lots-of-Fish, was destroyed by vandals in 1997. The artist has since created a replacement, Song Carrier, which is also the title given to someone who maintains a collection of songs and has the ability, talent, and intelligence to share them. The house post features the symbols of Owl, Raven, Fire, Raven’s House, Man, and Woman.Adopted into the Sdukʷalbixʷ tribe as a young man, Horsley is a prominent artist working in the Upper Salish style. His carving career began when he started making dance masks in 1976 and he continues to work as an artist, educator, and researcher today.