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Teens Burn Totem Pole Stolen From County Park Football Team Members Face Charges In Arsonist Pep Rally

Associated Press

A 10-foot story pole, stolen from a county park by high school football players and burned at an off-campus pep rally, had been set for dedication next year to celebrate federal recognition of the Snoqualmie Tribe.

“The reason they could do this is a lack of knowledge about what (the poles) really mean,” said artist David Horsley, who spent three months carving and painting that pole - “Man-Who-Eats-Lots-of-Fish” - and two others displayed at Beaver Lake Park east of Lake Sammamish, “They can’t respect something they don’t know anything about,” Horsley said, his voice shaking.

King County police say members of the Issaquah High School football team burned the carved pole at an off-campus pep rally Sept. 25 - the night before a game against the Sammamish High School Totems.

Thirty to 40 students watched as the top half of the pole was chopped up, doused with gasoline and set afire, police said Thursday. Some of the football players removed their shirts, painted their faces and bodies, and danced around the burning pole.

Police, alerted by a telephone tipster, found the charred remains of the top half at the rally site, a field northeast of Interstate 90 and downtown Issaquah.

The lower half of the story pole was taken home by a player who first hid it in his family’s garage and then - afraid his father would find it - burned it in a fireplace, police said.

At least five members of the football team face possible felony theft charges, police said, Two others were under investigation. Officers also planned to discuss possible arson charges with prosecutors.

Charges of malicious mischief are another option for prosecutors, said spokesman Dan Donohoe in the King County prosecutor’s office.

King County police spokeswoman Joanne Elledge said the players could be charged as adults.

The seven team members - six seniors and a junior - have been suspended from playing football until Oct. 25 or 31, Issaquah School District spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.

Before rejoining the team, they must complete 15 to 30 hours of community service, apologize in person to Snoqualmie Tribe members, and send written apologies to park-area neighbors and the county parks department.

They won’t be suspended from school because the district can’t discipline students for off-campus actions except those committed at school-sanctioned events, the spokeswoman said.

Sammamish High, whose team nickname apparently provoked the vandalism, has two totem poles on campus. One of them was burned by students from a rival school several years ago, said Bill Neal, athletic director.

King County paid $8,000 for the story pole in 1992, said Al Dams, spokesman for the parks department.

The chairman of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribal Council, Andy de los Angeles, said he was stunned by the vandalism.

“God, these people,” he said Friday. “The tribe will be outraged that a group of young people have destroyed a Native-American icon.”

The pole depicted a figure gorging himself on salmon, plus representations of a bear, rabbit, mouse and spirit. It was uprooted from the steel stand that had supported it inside a picnic shelter at the park.

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