Here's my take on the Davis-Meeker controversy, for what it's worth.

Preserve the legacy of the Davis-Meeker Oak

The Tumwater community and officials are grappling over the fate of the historic Davis-Meeker oak tree on Old Highway 99. The tree served as the end point of the Oregon Trail, and has borne witness to innumerable milestones in the life of our region.

Tumwater prides itself on preserving its history, a longtime ‘Tree City USA’ designation and a professed interest in closer relations with its Native American predecessors and neighbors.

The tree’s final days will surely come someday, whether in weeks or centuries, and the time is ripe to plan for what happens at that point.

The city’s plan to scrap the tree into ‘reclaimed wood’ is surely an ignoble affront to this four-hundred-year-old landmark.

Whenever the tree’s natural demise comes, the standing trunk should be preserved for eventual carving into an appropriate memorial.

The Squaxin Island Tribe and others have artists experienced in the carved-pole tradition. Examples abound online of skillfully carved poles up to 40 feet tall. (What a priceless opportunity this would be for teaching a new generation of apprentice carvers.)

The Garry Oak’s dual-stemmed trunk could memorialize the western and Native cultures entwining into a unified and mutually prosperous future. Or perhaps the stems could represent arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture.

The artistic possibilities are endless, but only if officials treat this august tree, sacred to both local cultures, in a way that respects its dignity and perpetuates its legacy for generations to come. 

Tom Oliva served on the Tumwater City Council from 2010 to 2021.


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  • KarenM

    Thank you Tom for your creative and positive ideas for this situation. Including people into the planning for when this tree does reach an end would be a unifying community experience. Perhaps the Mayor and City Administrator could ask the community for a do-over and start again with a real inclusive process.

    Friday, May 24 Report this

  • DavidAlbert

    The tree will last much longer than the airplane hangar

    Think seven generations.

    Friday, May 24 Report this

  • Boatyarddog

    The truth is and will remain... 400 year old Oak Trees that are on the Historical Lists are Not Common.

    It should remain.

    Friday, May 24 Report this

  • Eickholt

    I confess to. being a “Tree Lover”. Having said that, I’d like to bring a different tree into the community dialogue. It’s at the southern edge of wooded area behind Tumwater City Hall near the attorney General building. There is a huge, beautiful old Oak tree. I’ve not heard of any plans to do anything to THAT tree, so I’d like to suggest a proactive plan to spare the tree from the inevitable “Development Plans”..

    Saturday, May 25 Report this

  • DeeperThoughts

    Great commentary, pointing out the incredible double speak by the city. While professing to honor it's history, Tumwater Mayor Debbie Sullivan shows that is not really the case but sounds good and looks good on city publications. The Mayor's administrative decision to have this tree removed without public involvement, city council input, ignoring the entire city historic preservation commission, and tribe input is nothing short of a dictatorship. Absolutely shameful behavior and such poor leadership by Mayor Sullivan and city manager Parks. All trust has now been lost between the citizens and the Mayor's office.

    Saturday, May 25 Report this

  • PamelaJHanson

    Tom Oliva, Authors and Readers:

    The carved pole information is inspiring, if it were to happen. Though I don't want it to happen in my lifetime. Way too many people in our municipal corporate government seem to have the 1984 attitude toward leveling the land and bringing in more air, land and water pollution. Follow the leader? I still remember and need to find this picture: I stood in disbelief "during the time frame" when the Totem at the Tumwater Senior Center was being chainsawed down, unceremoniously, by the City of Tumwater. The city employee I talked to at the site indicated that the decision was already made. I took that information very seriously as an implied brick wall that it was a solid and backed decision with no or not enough effort or supporters for the Totem to remain (or be cared for and replaced). I fully support the Native American stewardship of our land. Though not a tribal member because I have no Native American heritage, I continue to be a supporter of natural history and not a supporter of any Tumwater casino, gambling or alcohol future (though I do occasionally buy a lottery ticket). Unfortunately, I see the 1960's non-descrimination side of our city disappearing into reckless consumerism, gambling and alcohol instead of conservation and preparing for the next downturn in our economy. I hope the mighty Davis Meeker Garry Oak Tree survives to celebrate a successful court battle for its life, that began and continues because a group of people cared enough, on Friday, May 24, 2024, to fight their way into the court system. Please remember the lost, but not yet forgotten, Totem that stood very proudly at the Tumwater Senior Center. That Totem was not respected and was not cared for properly by the City of Tumwater. And, if it is to be found that it was not an authentic Native Totem that was removed, may an authentic Native Totem be put in its place, somewhere, and sometime in the future. Thank you Tom Oliva for bringing back a Totem memory and for providing The Jolt your valued opinion regarding the Davis Meeker Garry Oak Tree. It is a great read!

    Saturday, May 25 Report this

  • Terrilovesanimals

    I would leave it as is for as long as possible and then no need to make any special decorations out of it. It was a simple tree marking the end of a trail. A simple sign on the remaining trunk would be awesome!

    Sunday, May 26 Report this

  • BradPax

    Is it indeed unsafe? Rotting away? A danger to motorists? If so, Tom's idea may be the best solution.

    Monday, May 27 Report this