Sacred Places

We all have places we consider sacred to us, whether it’s where a grandmother is buried, or the site of the first house we remember living in, or perhaps our church that has stood in place for some 150 years.

My neighbors, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, have recently reclaimed a sacred place–a 150-foot-high rock in Chimacum. The huge cone or egg-shaped rock, Tamanowas Rock, was sacred not for a couple of hundred years, but for thousands of years–and not only to the Chemakuan people who lived nearby (now extinct), but to native people throughout the region, including the Lummis (near what is Bellingham today) who would travel to the rock for religious ceremonies and spiritual bonding. In the Klallam language Tamanowas means “spirit power.”

The rock had since been used as a recreation site and was being chipped away by rock-climbing equipment and climbers. That and the litter and graffiti has been a source of concern and grief for surrounding tribes.

The North Kitsap Herald published an article in their April 16, 2010 issue about Gene Jones, a spiritual leader for the S’Klallam Tribe. As a five-year-old, he was told by his grandfather that someday he would fight for that rock , but at five Jones couldn’t imagine ever doing that. Yet he has–and others have joined him.

The Tribe has recently bought 62 acres on which the rock is located and they plan to protect and restore it as a spiritual location. However, it will be a site the public will be able to visit.

This is the second sacred site reclaimed by Native Salish people in 2012. The Lower Elwha Klallams reclaimed their creation site exposed by the draining of the lake behind one of the two dams that was removed on the Elwha River (described in my June 18 post). What hopeful, life-affirming actions in a world that is so often focused on fear!

Go to Jefferson Land Trust’s site,, for great photos of the rock, one of which gives you a feeling for how large it is. If you first click on “protected properties” and then scroll down to “Tamanowas Rock Sanctuary,” it will take you to several photos and more information.

Centuries after these ancient people who lived nearby Tamanowas Rock were gone, another person who knew grief and loss wrote the following:

The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.                                                            —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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