Artists chosen to carve Sealaska Heritage Institute, university

Traditional welcoming ceremony to be held Thursday at UAS

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009

Artists Joe and TJ Young, residents of Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island, recently won a contract to carve a totem pole for Sealaska Heritage Institute on behalf of the University of Alaska Southeast.

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Courtesy Of Charles Bingham
Courtesy Of Charles Bingham

A selection committee comprised of SHI and UAS representatives chose the brothers from a pool of applicants last week.

"I'm very pleased we did have a number of artists who submitted bids and I will say it was a difficult decision because we had some really very exciting designs from the different artists," said SHI President Rosita Worl.

Sealaska Corp. donated a 45-foot red cedar log for the project, which will be managed by Sealaska Heritage Institute. The log will be delivered to the university at 1 p.m. Thursday and given a traditional welcoming ceremony as the log is placed under the canopy of the Egan classroom wing. A reception will immediately follow the welcoming ceremony at the Native and Rural Student Center on the first floor of the Mourant building.

The artists will carve the pole under the canopy of the UAS Egan classroom wing and complete it by September. The university will launch a fundraising effort to purchase the pole from Sealaska Heritage Institute and raise it on campus in 2010. The finished pole will be painted and measure 36 feet.

"I really want to thank Sealaska, the Aak'w Kwáan and our student group Wooch.éen for working with the university on this project," said UAS Chancellor John Pugh. "I am pleased this is taking place on the UAS campus so students can observe the carving process."

The artists are Sealaska shareholders who have carved other totems, including a 40-foot pole for the Sitka National Historical Park and a 32-foot crest pole for the Hydaburg Totem Park.

The goal of the project is to balance the Raven pole that was donated to UAS and erected in 1993. Native people belong to either the Eagle or Raven moiety, and in ceremonies and at secular events both moieties are represented for balance.

"I really want to acknowledge the sensitivity of the university in trying to respond to our cultural protocols that require the presence of an Eagle pole. We have to have both an Eagle and Raven pole to have social and spiritual balance," Worl said.

"It's really nice to get an all-Eagle totem pole to complement the existing all-Raven totem pole. The Raven is going to be happy," said Aak'w Kwáan elder Marie Olson.

Elders of the Aak'w Kwáan met with Wooch.éen, a Native student club on campus, to identify the Eagle clan crests to be featured on the totem. They wanted to give special recognition to the Wooshkeetaan, an Eagle clan from the Juneau area. The pole will feature Eagle to represent all Eagle clans plus Shark, Wolf and Thunderbird, with Shark representing the Wooshkeetaan.

"But it's more than just a Shark, it's an anthropomorphic figure signifying the students who are attending the university," Worl said.

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