We would like to welcome you to our facilities which have been arranged in order to best cater to your needs. Our foyer has a warm and inviting atmosphere made to make you feel more comfortable.

Large Service Room

Our Large service room provides ample space for larger gatherings of up to 200. The picture on the left is just a small sample of the  kinds of displays we can set up to memorialize your loved one. 

Arrangement Office

Our arrangement offices provide a cozy environment to finalize arrangements and discuss the options available to you and your loved ones that will best fit your needs.

Family Gathering Rooms

This intimate area is a great place to say your final goodbyes to your loved one or host a smaller and more intimate service.

Totem Pole

Bellingham Herald – June 23, 2012
Article by: Johnny Cash

Jerns Funeral Chapel is Bellingham's ONLY funeral service provider that has erected a Funeral/Mortuary Totem to honor Native American Tribal Members and their heritage. Please stop by our facility in Bellingham and see our Totem; carved by George Swanaset Jr. of the Nooksack Tribe.

Totem Pole Meaning

The bottom of the totem pole is carved with two fish. They symbolize fertility and life giving. Above is a bear which symbolizes strength, carries the weight of the world, and life on its shoulders. Above the bear are the watchmen. They are the ones who see all that is coming and going. Normally, they are dressed with top hats to bear the weight of evolution. However, in this case, they are wearing cedar hats bearing the same meaning. Above the watchmen is the box that symbolizes loved ones, being put away. It’s carved with an eagle on the cover, on either side, the sun and the moon.

A 14-foot-high totem pole carved by a Nooksack Tribe member to honor those who have passed away was installed Aug. 29, 2009 at Jerns Funeral Chapel in Bellingham.

Brad Bytnar, owner of Jerns Funeral Chapel, is familiar with serving families from a wide range of beliefs. However, Bytnar felt it was particularly appropriate to reach out to the Nooksack Tribe and Lummi Nation of Whatcom County, as well as other nearby tribes.

“The totem pole will be another way of comforting grieving families from all walks of life,” Bytnar said.

Swanaset, director of cultural relations for the Nooksack Tribe, said the tribe doesn’t have a long history of utilizing totem poles, but has done so recently at some burial sites with “character” poles, symbolizing what a person or persons embodied. He said it’s appropriate to have a totem pole at a funeral home.

“I have always supported anything that would heighten awareness of our tribal people,” Swanaset said. “For many years Jerns Funeral Chapel has helped our people make the journey to the other side and we recognize this as good work.”

The base of the totem pole has fish and a frog, which symbolize fertility and life giving, Swanaset said. A bear, signifying strength, is atop them. The watchmen, placed above the bear, represent the ones who see all that is coming and going. The top of the totem pole has a box with an eagle on the cover and the sun and moon on the side, representing the burial of loved ones, Swanaset concluded.

Swanaset has been an apprentice at carving totem poles for approximately 30 years to his father, George Swanaset, Sr. The younger Swanaset did the sanding and painting, then eventually began creating designs of totem poles. It was only with the permission of his father that Swanaset undertook this project, assisted by his son Antonio and ongoing suggestions from his father.

For more information about the installation ceremony, call
Jerns Funeral Chapel at (360) 734-0070 or visit

Q: The significance of this totem that will be erected at Jerns Funeral Chapel. What do totems generally convey regarding the passing of tribal members?
A: (Here at Nooksack, we typically did not utilize totem poles. It had come about in the more recent years that we had started marking with poles. And in this case, as any other, they would be utilized as a, “character” pole. It would symbolize what that person, or persons stood for).

Q: What do you think will be the benefit of a totem at Jerns, where it will be seen by tribal and non-tribal members?
A: (I have always supported anything that would heighten awareness of our tribal people, whether it be the area’s historical tribe of Nooksack Indians, or the Indians on the Lummi Reservation. Also, beneficial for Jerns as well, to show that they too recognize our people, and that we are sharing this land one and all. For many years, Jerns has helped our people make that journey to the other side, and I recognize this as being good work).

Q: Briefly describe the meaning of each part of the totem from bottom to top.
A: (The Bottom of the totem pole has fish, and a frog. They symbolize fertility, life giving. Then above is a bear which to me symbolizes strength. Carries the weight of the world, and life on its shoulders. Above the bear is the watchmen. They to me are the ones who sees all that is coming and going. Normally I would dress them with top hats to bare the weight of evolution. But in this case, they are wearing the cedar hats. Above the watchmen is a box that to me symbolizes our loved ones, being put away. It will have an eagle on the cover, on either side, sun and moon. Nooksack people, like I stated, did not typically use totem poles. But as we have evolved, it has become more common, as stated a way to heighten our existence as Indian people).

Q: What is your background as a totem carver? How many years have you carved totems?
A: (I have been an apprentice to my father “George Swanaset, Sr. “sethlemetsten” for the past 30 years or so. I did the sanding, painting. Eventually graduated into putting my own design’s, and then designing poles for him to carve. I had to ask him permission to carve this one, and he finally said it was fine. Normally, father and son are not a “teacher, apprentice”, combination. But my dad and I have this understanding. He is also blessing me with his canoe carving skills. As long as he is still here with me, and able, this is his thing).

Q: Did you receive any assistance on this project? Do you wish to name those who helped you in carving the totem? How long did it take to complete the totem in terms of approximate days or number of work hours?
A: (For the most part, I did this on my own. Naturally, my father had come out from time to time and pointed things out to me. Also, my son, Antonio Swanaset had come and helped out. I don’t really know how many hours I had put into this carving.