It had been a long time coming, and when Sealaska Heritage Institute finally raised the new totem poles at the Gajaa Hit building in the Indian Village at Juneau, Alaska, the assembled crowd of 500 knew they were witnessing a grand historical and artistic moment. The organization released the following details about the proceedings:
Two Eagle and Raven totem poles carved to honor the Tlingit Auk Kwáan clans and long term residents of Indian Village in Juneau were raised on September 29, 2014.
The Village Eagle and Raven clans along with Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority (THRHA) sponsored the event.
The totems replaced two Eagle and Raven poles at Gajaa Hit that had deteriorated to the point they posed safety issues. SHI and the Housing Authority worked closely with the Auk Kwáan and other residents of the village to identify the clan crests and oral traditions that were carved on the poles.
The Auk Kwáan and village residents appointed village residents to serve as proxy carvers representing the Raven and Eagle clans. Carvers Joe and TJ Young made the poles with Master Carver Nathan Jackson and Ed Kuntz providing advice on the designs. The apprentices included Josh Yates, Jerrod Galanin and Tai'-Rel Osh Lang-Edenshaw. The team also made a new screen, which was installed on the building earlier.
The original 26-foot poles were carved and painted by Tommy Jimmie, Sr., Edward Kunz, Sr., Edward Kunz, Jr., and William Smith in 1977 to honor the Raven and Eagle Clans of the Auk Kwáan. The Raven pole is a copy of a totem from Wrangell carved by William Ukas in 1896. The original screen was designed by Tommy Jimmie, Sr., and painted by Ed Kunz, Sr., and Ed Kunz, Jr. The old poles and screen are being kept in storage.
This project was funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Our Town program; the Rasmuson Foundation, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the Juneau Community Foundation. Sealaska donated the logs, and the Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority paid for the apprentices and provided construction staff and equipment for the dismounting of the old screen and poles and mounting of the new screen and poles. The project was led by SHI in partnership with the housing authority, which owns Gajaa Hit. (Photos by Brian Wallace)
Here's a time-lapse video of the installation of screen and poles, followed by more photos: