Welcoming Back the Welcome Woman
After a summer spent in Evergreen’s newly opened carving studio, the refurbished Welcome Woman resumed her stance at the entrance to campus on Oct. 2. The carving was updated and re-painted by master carver Greg Colfax (Makah) and Bunni Peterson-Haitwas ’19 (Skokomish). The project was made possible through a partnership between Evergreen Facilities and the Longhouse’s Artist-in-Residence program.
The Welcome Woman was originally carved in 1984 by Colfax and Peterson-Haitwas’ father, Andy Wilbur-Peterson ’87. When the carving was first created, it was meant to represent the dream of the Evergreen Longhouse envisioned in 1972 by faculty Mary Ellen Hillaire (Lummi). The Longhouse was constructed in 1995, 11 years after the original Welcome Woman.
Peterson-Haitwas was the driving force behind the carving’s restoration. After decades of exposure to the elements, the carving was in dire need of repair. “She just looked so sad,” said Peterson-Haitwas. Various pieces of the original carving were replaced, including the head and feet.
As daughter of one of the original carvers, the figure holds special significance for Peterson-Haitwas. “It is a dream come true to build the feet my dad built before and to carry on that legacy.”
The restored version keeps some of the original wood elements with additions that created outstretched arms. Colfax said the symbolic imagery on the newly painted carving is “a statement to the world of the importance of education to native peoples.”