A SoHum Otter Gets its Name


Tce yac, a newly created mosaic otter, was celebrated with a party on World Otter Day (Wednesday, May 31st) and installed into the visitor center at Humboldt Redwoods State Park near Weott. The otter, covered with over 40 mosaic images of flora and fauna found in southern Humboldt parks, was created as gift for the visitor center by Weott mosaic artist Jennifer Amidi.
Mosaic artist Jennifer Amidi offered her thank yous. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Mosaic artist Jennifer Amidi offered her thank yous.

Earlier on April 21, Amidi had arranged with teachers at the Agnes J Johnson Charter School in Weott to have children there vote to name the otter. School staffer Traci Chadbourne Speelman, of the Wailaki tribe, provided the three name choices for the ballot and the students chose Tee yac (“chee yash”) which means “otter” in Wailaki.

Amidi had created her first amazingly beautiful mosaic otter for the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, a scholarship-fundraising project organized by wildlife professor Jeff Black at Cal Poly Humboldt a few years ago. After it was auctioned off, along with over 100 other unique pieces, she and Sophia Eckert, director of the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association, came up with idea of Amidi using her creative mosaic skills to create a second otter as a gift for the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center when Black revealed he had one remaining otter "blank" available. Amidi was ready and willing to create another mosaic otter.

“We had hosted a painted otter at the HRSP visitor center during the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative,” said Eckert, “and then bid on it in the auction to keep it at the visitor center. But someone else outbid us and we were really sad.”

“Jeff and I had been talking about ideas of how to use that remaining otter ‘blank,’” said Amidi, “and he loved my idea of making a second mosaic otter and donating it to the visitor center. I’m all about educating students and others about nature and now this will be a forever otter at the visitor center.”

Amidi began developing her skills at her first how-to mosaic workshop in Potter Valley back in 2005. “Ever since, mosaic has stuck with me,” she said. “I love how mosaic work brings my drawings to life through the glass.”

Wednesday’s party and dedication event began with a welcome by Eckert to a few tourists who happened to be in the audience, visitor center volunteers and a large group of teachers, parents and enthusiastic students — many wearing hand-colored otter masks — from AJJ Charter School. Speelman sang a Wailaki healing song for the land, water and wildlife. Two student members of the school WeOtters program then led the audience in a lively sing-along.

Black then offered to the attentive children a condensed Wildlife 101 lecture on the differences between sea otters and river otters and how he created the “painted otter” project as an opportunity for people to connect with and cultivate appreciation for the charismatic North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) and the water-restoration projects underway to help river otters make a comeback in Humboldt County and elsewhere.

Black then invited the children and adults whenever they see a river otter to participate in his ongoing citizen science river otter records study by reporting when and where wild river otters are observed throughout the North Coast region. Humboldt students have been collecting otter observations from citizen volunteers since 1999 as a means of tracking the quality of North Coast habitats.

Eckert then introduced Amidi and said, “We are so excited and honored to accept this otter for permanent display at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.” Amidi then shared the origin story of her gift mosaic otter and shared gifts for Speelman and Shanna Archibold, an HRSP naturalist who helped her with the flora identification used on the mosaic otter.

Amidi also revealed that she had placed a dedication on the base of Tce yac to her good friend Dave Stockton Jr., a deceased long-time executive director of the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association who ran the visitor center at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and created many of its displays and exhibits.

“I saw him here almost every day for 10 years,” said Amidi, “and he inspired in me the love of nature and especially Humboldt Redwoods State Park. He was so full of stories about southern Humboldt history and knowledge of the Humboldt Redwoods Park that I wish I would have written them down. I was so blessed to have known him. He will always be the wind in the redwoods for me.”

As for the future, Amidi said, “I’m on a mission to cover all of these park visitor centers with art.”

Eckert and Mary Kaufman, manager of the HRIA, then divided the students into two teams for a rousing and competitive quiz on all things otter related covered during the program, with otter pops and cupcakes for the winners. Fortunately, the game ended in a tie score and everyone got to eat the snacks.

Add a comment