Arts and Entertainment

Sculptures salute Muckleshoot history

Two life-size bronze sculptures, titled “Listen My Nephew,” were unveiled at a ceremonial event Sept. 21 at the White River Valley Museum. The work depicts Muckleshoot elder Sukwa’lasxt, or Big John, who is pausing while telling a story to pioneering anthropologist and Auburn city clerk Arthur Ballard.

When Ballard set out to record Muckleshoot elders, he started with Big John, a respected community leader. Big John explained the origins of his people and the creation of his homeland. He also related Muckleshoot words for animal and place names, family genealogies and accounts of historical events. Eventually Ballard learned the Wulshootseed, the Muckleshoot language.

Big John may have referred to Arthur Ballard with the traditional phrase, ‘listen my nephew’ as a way to begin instruction, historians said. Teaching in traditional Muckleshoot families proceeded from uncle to nephew. Ballard’s records of ancient Muckleshoot culture, resulting from years of such interviews with Muckleshoot elders, are the sole surviving, written record of ancient Muckleshoot heritage.

Much of Ballard’s work is in closed collections, according to the museum. But the museum board members conceived of “Listen My Nephew” as a way to honor Ballard and his Native American teachers.

The Muckleshoot Culture Committee selected Big John from the list of 10 Suise, Green and White River elders that were Ballard’s teachers. Officials said the statues are a model of inter-racial risk-taking, learning and respect between nations.

The Muckleshoot Charity Fund provided $43,500 –– most of the funding –– for the work by Albuquerque sculptor Reynaldo (Sonny) Rivera. It’s in the museum’s lobby, greeting visitors.

The museum isat Les Gove Park, 918 H Street SE. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and by appointment for group tours and research. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children and seniors. Wednesdays are free for everyone.

More information is available at 288-7433 and

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