Metlakatla: Pole-raising caps 'Sobriety Celebration'

Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2002

Capping a five-day "Sobriety Celebration," the Metlakatla Indian Community raised a 36-foot totem Tuesday before a crowd of about 300 people.

It took about 80 people and more than an hour to carry the "Lip ky'anim Healing Heart" totem four blocks from the carving shed where it was made to its raising in front of Metlakatla's dental clinic.

Young dancers in Native regalia and young people who helped carve the pole led the procession through the town's spectator-lined streets.

About 100 people, using ropes and wooden frames, raised the totem at about 11:30 a.m. to cheers from the crowd.

"This is us," said Terence Booth Sr. in a raising ceremony following the totem raising.

"We're reshaping ourselves; so for me it's coming back to the greatness that lies dormant within us," he said.

Patricia Beal and Raeme Janes sang the Tsimshian song, "The Sacred Journey," while Haylee Booth Nix and Louisa Beal performed Native dances in honor of Stan Marsden and Mike Booth, the totem's main carvers.

The Healing Heart pole is a continuation of a pole of the same name carved by Marsden in Craig after the 1994 drug-overdose death of his son, Jim.

"The point of the totem pole ... is to help heal the community after the deaths of people to drugs and alcohol," said David Robert Boxley, who helped orchestrate the pole raising.

Marsden thanked Booth and others, including Metlakatla youth, who helped carve the "Healing Heart" totem.

Indian activist Russell Means; Alaska Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, Democrat of Rampart; and Rep. Al Kookesh, Democrat of Angoon, were part of the crowd at Tuesday's raising and potlatch.

The sobriety celebration was organized by the Metlakatla Indian Community, Boys & Girls Club, Employment & Training, the Teen Center and other groups to rally Alaska Native youth against drug and alcohol abuse.

Means and Georgia-based motivational speaker Milton Creagh were in Metlakatla nearly a week giving talks to young people from more than 10 Alaska communities about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

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