Sealaska Heritage


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May 6, 2009

Artists Joe and TJ Young have won a contract to carve a totem pole for Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) on behalf of the University of Alaska Southeast.

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.

"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 live in Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island. They 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,” said Worl.

"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,” said Worl.

Sealaska Corporation 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 pm, 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 Egan Classroom wing and complete it by September. The university will launch a fund-raising 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.

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; Lynne Johnson, UAS Director of Development & Alumni Relations, 907-796-6566; Joe and TJ Young, Artists, 907-229-3903