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Eagle to balance Raven totem

April 12, 2010

An Eagle totem pole will be raised at the University of Alaska Southeast this month, bringing an end to a quest to balance an existing Raven pole on campus.

The Eagle will bring social and spiritual harmony to the Juneau campus, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting in Tlingit society, people belong to either the Eagle or Raven moiety, and in ceremonies and at secular events both moieties are represented for balance.

“I think it’s going to be very exciting for Juneau--I hope all of Juneau will come out to see the ceremony when the pole is raised,” said Worl, adding the Native words for balance are Wooch Yax (Tlingit), Íitl’ Tlagáa (Haida), and Na Yuubm (Tsimshian or Shm’algyack, as the Tsimshian language is called).

"The University of Alaska Southeast is honored to be able to recognize the Eagle moiety through the raising of the new totem,” said UAS Chancellor John Pugh. “We want to thank the elders of the Aak’w Kwáan for working with UAS to bring this project to completion."

The raising ceremony is scheduled 11 am, April 24 near the Egan Classroom wing. It will be followed by a reception hosted by Chancellor John Pugh in the Mourant Building. Dance groups are invited to participate in the afternoon portion of the program (dance groups that want to participate should contact the Native & Rural Student Center at 796-6043 by April 15 to be included in the printed program).

The Raven totem was raised in the 1990s. In 2009, Sealaska donated a 45-foot cedar log for the project, which was managed by Sealaska Heritage Institute. The Native student group Wooch.éen worked with Elders of the Aak’w Kwáan 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 features Eagle to represent all Eagle clans plus Shark, Wolf and Thunderbird, with Shark representing the Wooshkeetaan.

“I would just like to thank the Aak’w Kwáan for allowing me to be a part of history,” said student Lyle James, a Wooch.éen member.

It means a lot to Native students that the university wanted to balance the Raven pole, said Wooch.éen member Ricky Tagaban, also a UAS student.

“There’s definitely a kind of an understanding or acceptance on campus for Native students. I’m glad this is going on in my generation,” Tagaban said.

A SHI-UAS joint committee chose brothers Joe and T.J. Young to carve the pole. The artists are Sealaska shareholders who live in Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island. They have carved other totems, including a forty-foot pole for the Sitka National Historical Park and a thirty-two-foot crest pole for the Hydaburg Totem Park.

“It’s pretty cool to get recognized by not only Haida people but by other tribes around,” said Joe Young.

T.J. Young said it’s overwhelming to think his children and grandchildren yet to be born will see it one day.

“We hope they see we did put our heart into it fifty to one-hundred years from now,” he said.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute’s mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907-463-4844; Joe and T.J. Young, carvers, 907-301-0860; John Pugh, UAS Chancellor, 907-796-6568