An American Indian named Jewell Praying Wolf James took it upon himself to carve a series of totem poles after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They were created as a healing gift on behalf of all Native American tribes. The totems were subsequently dedicated by the Lummi tribe of Washington state as a tribute to those who died in the attacks, and installed in New York and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, the scenes of the crash sites on that fateful day.
The totem at the Pentagon was dedicated during the opening week of the National Museum of the American Indian in September 2004. The Piscataway tribe also participated in the totem’s dedication, as they originally owned the land where the totem now stands. It was later moved to the Historic Congressional Cemetery, which is located on Capitol Hill in southeast D.C. at 1801 E Street (MAP).
Carved from a single tree from Alaska, the structure lies near a grove of trees in the cemetery that were planted in memory of the victims in the 9/11 attacks. Standing 14 feet tall and six feet around, the two vertical poles are named Liberty and Freedom. The Liberty pole depicts a female bear with a “grandmother moon” in her abdomen. The Freedom pole depicts a male bear with “grandfather sun.” The 36-foot Sovereignty crossbar joining the two poles has eagles carved on each end, with two sets of seven feathers representing American Airlines Flight 77, the flight that crashed into the Pentagon. The female eagle symbolizes peace, and the male symbolizes war.
The totem at Congressional Cemetery is eventually going to be moved to the September 11 Memorial Grove that is planned for Kingman Island in the Anacostia River in D.C. But for now, the pole remains at the cemetery, where it may remain for years to come.