What’s With the Totem Pole in the Roundabout?

By Wendy Wallace

Every islander has seen it as they contemplate stopping or going at the roundabout. Its name is The Rainbringer, and it seems to be working (although that isn’t much of a surprise around here). The 13-foot cedar totem statue was carved by Indianola artist Craig Jacobrown in 1990 and was the first installment of the island’s 1 Percent for the Arts program, which provides 1 percent of all capital improvement funds for public art.

In its current form, the sculpture honors water, lightning and thunder by illustrating the tale of a human transforming into a Kolus, a shape-shifting bird and younger brother of Thunderbird. The legend says that Kolus captured a whale, a feat accomplished with assistance from his wife-to-be. Look closely at the piece to see the depictions of a man and woman, whales, thunder, and lightning (stainless steel bolts in the birds’ eyes).

After a heavy snowfall in 2008 damaged a wing, Jacobrown installed a replacement totem. He used two different second-growth trees because although they may not last as long, he believes “carvers need to create less demand for the extremely rare old-growth trees.”

With western red cedar, stainless steel and oil paints, the original Rainbringer incorporated a Kwakwaka’wakw sculptural and design style as homage to his mentor Chief Henry Seaweed of the Kolus Clan. For the replacement piece, Jacobrown chose a Salish design “to reflect the tribal styles indigenous to the land upon which it sits.”

Totem at Round-about on Bainbridge Island, WA