Sealaska Heritage Institute has received two grants to commission new totem poles and a screen for the Gajaa Hít building in Juneau’s Indian Village.
A $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town program will allow SHI to hire carvers to make the poles and to work with Native apprentices. A $5,000 grant from the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council will fund replacement of the house screen on the building, which is located near the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. The new pieces will display the crests of the first people of Juneau — the Auk Kwáan, which includes the Wooshkeetaan and L’eeneidí clans.
The council’s award shows the Juneau government’s commitment to the perpetuation of cultural practices, and the federal grant demonstrates the nation’s commitment to cultural diversity, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“The fact that the federal government has given us this grant to allow us to continue on with our cultural practices is a really important statement,” Worl said.
“It really reaffirms the survival of Tlingit culture and the renewal of Tlingit culture.”
SHI is seeking proposals from artists. Deadline to respond to the Request for Proposals is 3 p.m., July 31.
The totems will replace two Eagle and Raven poles at the Gajaa Hít building. The poles have deteriorated to the point that they pose safety issues. The 26-foot poles were carved and painted by Tommy Jimmie, Sr., Edward Kunz, Sr., Edward Kunz, Jr., and William Smith in 1977 to honor the Raven and Eagle Clans of the Auk Kwáan. The Raven pole is a copy of a totem from Wrangell carved by William Ukas in 1896. The screen was designed by Tommy Jimmie, Sr., and painted by Ed Kunz, Sr., and Ed Kunz, Jr.
The project will be led by SHI in partnership with the Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority, which owns the Gajaa Hít building, and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. The housing authority also is paying for the apprentices. The Juneau Community Foundation last year also awarded SHI and the housing authority a grant to plan the project. Sealaska is donating the logs, which will arrive in Juneau in the next few days.
Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.