Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Sealaska Heritage and city museum to host lecture on Juneau "Four Story Pole"

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Free event to be offered virtually, in-person

July 5, 2022


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), in partnership with the Juneau-Douglas City Museum (JDCM), will co-sponsor a lecture by Native art scholar Dr. Emily Moore next week on a shaman totem pole in Juneau.

Through the lecture, Reevaluating the Four Story Pole by John Wallace, Moore will examine recent research that suggests Kaigani Haida carver John Wallace intended the pole to be read as one story, rather than four separate stories. The account tells of a Tlingit shaman named Sa’wan who obtained knowledge of halibut hooks from the Land Otter People.

The federal government commissioned Wallace, who lived in Hydaburg, to carve the pole in 1940 through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a government work relief program that employed Tlingit and Haida men from 1938 to 1942. Through her lecture, Moore will present the original 1940s interpretation of the pole, as recorded in the unpublished notes of Viola Garfield, an American anthropologist best known for her work on the social organization and art of the Tsimshian nation in British Columbia and Alaska.

Moore will also explore how the “Four Story” narrative emerged in the 1960s alongside strained tensions between the Tlingit and non-Tlingit communities in the Juneau-Douglas area, caused in part by the 1962 burning of the Douglas Indian Village.

The Juneau Chamber of Commerce purchased the pole in 1962, and the Juneau Rotary Club paid to transport and erect it in 1963. In 1994, the pole was moved to its current location in front of the city museum.

Out of proper protocol and respect, Moore endeavors to discuss her research findings on poles with clan leaders before sharing them publicly. However, as with several poles commissioned through the CCC period, Wallace’s pole is not discernably associated with any clan, but research is ongoing about which the clans might be associated with the totem.

Moore is an associate professor of art history and associate curator of North American Art at the Gregory Allicar Museum at Colorado State University, where she teaches courses in Native American and American art history. Raised in Ketchikan, she has focused her research on Tlingit and Haida arts of the twentieth century and is the author of the book Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska’s New Deal Totem Parks, published by the University of Washington Press in 2018. Moore has twice been a visiting scholar with SHI.  

The lecture is scheduled at 12 pm, Tuesday, July 12, in the clan house at Sealaska Heritage Institute. A question-and-answer session will follow. After the talk, Moore will invite her audience to accompany her up the hill to view the totem pole, which is on display in front of JDCM. SHI will livestream the lecture on its YouTube.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Chuck Smythe, SHI Senior Ethnologist, 907.586.9282,; Beth Weigel, JDCM Director,, 907.586.3572