A group of Sultan neighbors are discussing what it would take to preserve one of the city’s historic relics.
The 12-foot-high Chief Sultan statue was erected around 1985 at the junction of the Sultan and Skykomish rivers off of Main Street. It was officially dedicated in 1996. The creator and resident Jerry Carter has since passed away.
“It was a gift of the heart,” said Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce president Debbie Copple. “Jerry wanted to give a physical reminder of the native people who lived here before us.”
Copple said the cherished piece of folk art was essentially constructed with wood and resin. It hasn’t held up to the elements as much as Carter had hoped. Flooding and the harsh hands of vandals have taken their toll, she said. So far, the community has managed to complete around $5,000 in repairs, but Copple said the hope is to find a way to keep the statue intact with less upkeep.
Sultan-based artist Kevin Pettelle has been part of the preservation discussion for a while, Copple said. Pettelle most recently produced the “Wagner Swifts” bronze sculpture that now sits in downtown Monroe. Bronze may be a bit too costly for the Sultan statue, Copple said.
Kathleen Morrisson and her husband, Richard, attended Wednesday’s statue restoration meeting at the Sky Valley Visitor Center. She said the dilemma had been up for discussion a few years before, but talks eventually fizzled. An engineer, Richard Morrisson has agreed to research 3D modeling and see how that might be of any help in finding a more long-term solution, Copple said. New technology “might be our answer,” she said.
Carter’s daughter, Joni Edelbrock, made contacts in Sultan last summer, when she heard the statue might be relocated. She said she wants to be involved in any decisions for the piece she watched her dad make, “with his bare hands when I was seven.”
“I believe it is more than just a piece of art or statue,” she said. “I believe there is a kind of spirit there.”
The family is from Monroe, but Carter was often involved in other communities throughout the Sky Valley, she said. She remembers helping haul the statue out of town and down U.S. Highway 2 to his current outpost. He made a Timberbeast statue out of similar materials for the Salem Woods Elementary School, which sat in the library for many years, she said.
“He has always made something out of something,” she said.
Carter was encouraged by the people of Sultan to make the statue of John Sultan, according to a historical document provided to the visitor’s center by resident Mildred Johnson. It is one of the few known pieces that provide insight into the history of Chief Sultan.
John Sultan, or Sultan John, was actually never a chief, but a healer for the Snohomish Tribe, Copple said. His full English name was John Sultan Hicks, but his real name was Tseultd, she said.
According to a different document, Chief Sultan died in 1906, and is buried near Sultan.
The document seems to be from “The Sultan Star,” a newspaper that operated in the city in the early 1900s. John Sultan was born and raised near Sultan. His birth date is not known, but he made statements that indicate he was between 12-15 years old when “the white soldiers first came up the valley.” According to Sultan history, European settlers first appeared in the area around the 1880s.
John Sultan was a famed healer among local tribes, and his remedies were “regarded by them as miraculous,” according to the document. He also acted as a friend and guide for the settlers, who also held him in high esteem.
At the time of his death, “his two wives and all of his children but one sleep in the little private graveyard on his homestead,” according to the document. The article is signed by a T.J. Atwood. In the final paragraph, the writer suggests the city council honor Chief Sultan in the same ways the city of Seattle honored “her own great chief.”