Honor Totem

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Sunday, October 26, 7:30pm, NW Film Forum

For over a century, the Williams Family have been practicing their craft of carving totems for collectors and tourists on the streets of Seattle.  Beginning with Sam Williams in the early 1900’s, the family’s signature style and designs have remained intact with each generation adding their own personal touch. One of the most talented of the grandchildren was John T. Williams, who struggled with his own demons of addiction and mental instability. By the summer of 2010, severe hearing and vision loss had also taken its toll, but John remained determined to keep carving. On the sunny afternoon of August 30, John was on his way to meet his brothers at a well-known family carving spot.  Just after crossing a busy street intersection, John’s life was abruptly ended by a Seattle police officer.

Williams’ death sparked anger from many in the community, his unjust killing playing a large part in a Department of Justice investigation that found the Seattle Police Department engaged “in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law.” But Rick Williams, John’s older brother, chose another path to respond to John’s death and media reports that only spoke of his troubles.  With the help of countless numbers of community members, tribes, and volunteers, a 34 foot totem pole was carved and raised in honor of the Williams family legacy and the talent of their beloved brother John.  Honor Totem chronicles the story of the Williams family and the totem project that called for peace and healing in the face of injustice and anger. (Ian Devier, 57 min, USA)

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