Seattle Commemorates Fifty Years of Friendship with Bergen with Gift of Northwest Coastal Tribal Art

Contributed by Lori Ann Reinhall, President, Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, a Seattle delegation of eight from the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association visited local representatives at Bergen City Hall to present Mayor Marte Mjøs-Persen and the people of Bergen, Norway, with a gift to commemorate fifty years of friendship between the two sister cities.

The following is a translation of president Lori Ann Reinhall’s speech, given in Norwegian, that accompanied the presentation of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association’s gift to the City of Bergen:

“Honorable Mayor Mjøs-Persen, distinguished members of the City Council, good citizens of the City of Bergen: It is with great pleasure that I stand here today with a delegation from the City of Seattle to present you with a gift in commemoration of fifty years of friendship as your sister city.

The gift that we present to you today is an original modern interpretation of Pacific Northwest coastal tribal art, created by master copper artist Joseph “Crabcat” Illg. Seattle is proud of the cultural traditions handed down from its native inhabitants. The Duwamish Indians were a kind and gentle people, who generously shared their lands with the first pioneer settlers. Our city takes its name from their highly respected and beloved leader, Chief Seattle.

The Duwamish people lived in harmony with nature, as they hunted wildlife in the forests, fished for salmon in the waterways, harvested clams, and gathered berries and other plants for food and medicine. They understood the power of giving with their traditional potlatch feast, a ceremonious presentation of gifts to mark important occasions.

The motifs that you see in this fantastic copper plate find their origin in coastal tribal legends and belief. At the center is a woman weaving with a spindle whorl, as the powers of her body convert the wool into yarn. Her human figure is embraced by stately birds, mythological beings that provide protection and the supernatural power of creation, while the two masked figures at her sides function as dream-inspired helpers. An embryonic frog-like creature signifies the healing and continuity of the lunar cycle, an affirmation of life.

Today, we stand here to embrace life, as we celebrate fifty years of cooperation with your city. Over the years, we have seen educational exchanges, shared advances in technology and research, enjoyed each other’s cultural programs, and forged many personal connections. When President Eisenhower founded Sister Cities International in 1956, he believed that if each American could make just one friend abroad, the world would be a better place. Our friendship is a living testimony to this idea.

Moving forward we face many new challenges: the world is seeing the displacement and relocation of peoples unimaginable only a few years back; we need to learn to cope with new technologies, which are evolving at the speed of light; and above all, we are plagued by environmental issues that go far beyond our own borders.

I would like to close with the words of Chief Seattle, who once so wisely said, ‘The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.’ We cannot take what we have for granted. We have a responsibility to bear. Both Seattle and Bergen are cities of extraordinary natural beauty, and enormous resources and wealth and we have much to share with each other and the rest of the world. As engaged members of Sister Cities International, we must hold fast to our common values of peace and prosperity as we work to achieve a better life for all, in Seattle, in Bergen, and across the globe.

With our eye on the future, we present this gift to you with our deepest sincerity and gratitude.”