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Cedar Log ready to become Eagle Pole after Welcoming Ceremony

The artists will complete an eagle totem pole by September.

Lyle James (rt)Thursday, May 7, 2009 UAS staff, faculty and students welcomed a 15 ton red cedar log onto the Mourant courtyard at a ceremony hosted by the Wooch. Een club. Local elders attended the event. After remarks by Chancellor John Pugh and songs by dancers Vanessa Early and Lyle James, the 45-foot long, 15-ton log was placed under the canopy of the Egan Classroom wing , where it will be carved this summer by artists from Hydaburg on Prince of Whales Island. The log is from a tree near Klawock on P.O.W. It is estimated to be at least 500 years old.

The artists will complete an eagle totem pole 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.

Moving the log from the back of an Alaska Marine Lines flat bed semi-truck was a painstaking and time consuming operation that required careful, minute adjustments. The truck backed up as close to the pillars of the overhang as possible. Then a boom truck with a crane lifted the log up. As the crane held it and lowered it slowly, crews on both ends of the log turned the log to angle it in between pillars. Metal rollers were placed for the log to rest on. Then manual labor was required. A crew of about a half dozen men armed with 6 foot two by fours pushed it inch by inch to roll the log and jimmy it into place.

Artists Joe and TJ Young have won a contract to carve the 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.

“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.”

Moving cedar pole into position for carvingThe artists are Sealaska shareholders and 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.

“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.

At the close of the welcoming ceremony, Aak’w Kwáan dog salmon clan member Bob Samm also acknowledged UAS students. “I want to thank the most important people here, the students. They give this place life,” he said. “It makes my heart feel good to see young people walking this land. I also believe if you have a good foundation and you know who you are and where you come from you can be whatever you want to be. I am so proud you are taking the lead to have balance on this land. Gunalsheesh to the students!”

A reception immediately followed the welcoming ceremony at the Native and Rural Student Center.


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