Cha-das-ska-dum Which-ta-lum was a spiritual elder of the Lummi Indian Nation. He was a big bear of a man with a great, loving heart, a teacher for many, and a bridge builder between cultures. He spent time with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet and was among a select group of spiritual leaders invited by the Pope to the Vatican to pray for peace in the new millennium. He was a wonderful storyteller and kept the legends of his people alive through his powerful voice and ready laughter.
He was a carver of totem poles and canoes and a weaver of words of wisdom. He worked diligently in his life to preserve the sacred lands. His album, Native Healing, is the expression of his life work and is dedicated to healing. His music is also featured on Forest Rain, Arctic Refuge: A Gathering of Tribes and Sacred Earth.
“I am the great grandson of Chief Joseph. I come from Lummi. The other night, my great grandfather came to me in a vision. He took me on a horse out through the mountain range, and he talked to me as we were traveling in this vision. When we got to his tipi, we got off the horse and we entered. We sat down and we had some cooked rabbit together. When he finished eating, he reached over and he told me “Grandson, every illness known to man comes from the neck up. You either think it or you eat it. Every disease no matter what it is. If it is a venereal disease, if you would have used your head you wouldn’t have got it. Whatever kind of disease known to man comes from here up. For every disease there is a plant out here in the forest that will heal it.”
Cha-Das-Ska-Dum traveled extensively to share his culture and help protect the earth. "He wanted to work with any other people that had traditions and values that valued the water and earth and the seas and the mountains," Jones said. Kurt Russo, who is not a tribal member, worked with Cha-Das-Ska-Dum for 17 years on environmental issues, traveling with him across the United States, to Mexico and to Guatemala.
"Cha-Das-Ska-Dum was instrumental in helping the Maya Lacandones preserve their rain forest in southern Mexico," Russo said. "It was the spirit of the man that made it possible." Cha-Das-Ska-Dum also worked with the Maya Itza in Guatemala, first made the Lummi Nation aware of the logging threat to Whatcom County's sacred and ecologically significant Arlecho Creek watershed, and always promoted a broader and understanding of the importance of the forest, Russo said.
Over his 58 years, Cha-Das-Ska-Dum was a fisher, logger, police officer, advocate for the environment and human rights, carver, musician, storyteller, healer, cultural specialist, spiritual leader and Lummi elder.
Cha-Das-Ska-Dum Which-ta-lum was full of love and shared it with everyone, according to those who knew him.
"He was a big man with a big chest and a big voice and a penchant for doing a lot of talking and laughing and singing," friend Darrel Hillaire said. "All of that's just symbolic for the size of his heart."
Hillaire said he and Cha-Das-Ska-Dum knew each other all their lives, but became close over the past three years, after they went to Guatemala together. "He was going to be my best man at my wedding," Hillaire said.
Cha-Das-Ska-Dum always said 'yes' when someone asked him to do something and probably used 'love' more than any other word, Hillaire said. "He never forgot to tell people that he loved them when they were coming or when they were going away from him."
Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Willie Jones said Cha-Das-Ska-Dum was a caring person with a good sense of humor.
"He liked to laugh and he liked to make people laugh," Jones said. "And with a big voice like that, no matter where you sat you know he was there."