Friday Harbor 'Portals of Welcome' turn 10

A ferry appears to pass through the Portals of Welcome at the Port Friday Harbor en route to the ferry terminal on San Juan Island.  - Journal file photo
A ferry appears to pass through the Portals of Welcome at the Port Friday Harbor en route to the ferry terminal on San Juan Island.
— image credit: Journal file photo

By Barbara Marrett

Special to the Journal

On May 22, 2004, “Interaction,” a contemporary Coast Salish sculpture by Native artist Susan A. Point (b. 1952), was unveiled at the Port of Friday Harbor’s Fairweather Park on San Juan Island. The monumental carved and painted cedar-house-post sculpture was the first public acknowledgement of the island’s tribal heritage and represented a healing chapter in local history.

House posts were located inside longhouses and told the stories of the owners of the house; similarly Interaction tells the story of the San Juan Islands and how islanders care for their environment.

By the time of the unveiling, what had started as the desire of a small group of islanders—the Portals of Welcome Committee—to bring art by a world-renowned artist to the islands had blossomed into a bridge connecting the island’s cultural and environmental past, present, and future.

Local residents, businesses, tribal members, the Town of Friday Harbor, the Port of Friday Harbor, Ravenhill Construction, Soroptomists and Rotarians all donated cash or in-kind services to bring the project to fruition, and a crowd of more than 200 gathered for the unveiling.

Island Story, Island Treasure

From the time of its unveiling, Interaction has become a gathering place for islanders and visitors—especially children, awed by the sculpture’s size, engaging motif, and deep, colorful carvings. Because children are drawn to touching the cougar scratches on the woman’s leg, over the years the paint and wood has been worn down in this area and other places where they have been loved and climbed upon.

cougar and womanInteraction, which cost $65,000 in 2004, is now estimated to be worth $400,000, due to artist Susan Point’s growing stature.

Members of the original Portals of Welcome Committee are raising funds to have the house posts professionally restored and repainted by a team of artists from Susan’s studio and have a community/tribal celebration upon the completion. Questions:

Funds are also being raised for the Writing Our History Project: a collaboration between San Juan County history writers and local tribes; local historical museums and libraries; the San Juan County National Historical Park, the Town of Friday Harbor and Their goal is to produce accurate, well-written and widely accessible essays on the Coast Salish in the islands as well as other important but yet undocumented local history for publication on Questions:

Donations are tax deductible through a partnership with the San Juan Nature Institute and may be mailed to: House Post Restoration / Writing Our History Project P.O. Box 755 Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

— Editor’s note: the above article is an excerpt from a longer piece submitted by Barbara Marrett. To read the article in its entirety, visit


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