The first 360 degree totem pole in Alaska was dedicated on Wednesday, June 8. The pole is 22′ tall, and 4′ wide at the base. It is between 7-8 feet across at the raven and eagle.
The totem was erected at the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, and is only the fourth of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Carved out of a red cedar log, by Haida artist Sgwaayaans (TJ Young), his brother Gidaawaan (Joe Young) as well as several other carvers. The totem pole represents the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.
An Alaskan who grew up in Maryland was always curious about the storyline behind a, seemingly random totem pole, that has stood in a Potomac park since he was a kid. Trying to track down information locally didn’t seem to get him anywhere. At one time, the totem had a plaque, but that had long since disappeared.
So he threw the question out to social media in Alaska, and received a response “within minutes”. In fact, he was forwarded a copy of the program from the totem pole’s dedication back in 1966.
The totem pole was hand carved in Haines, Alaska on commission for the Potomac Area Council of Camp Fire Girls. My favorite response to the totem inquiry: “I’m sitting here with one of the carvers right now, my father-in-law, John G. Hagen of Haines, Ak. He remembers the pole. Says he, Leo Jabobs, Carl Heinmiller, and maybe a few others worked on it. They worked at American Indian Arts in Haines, AK as masters carvers.“
The carver’s son, John Hagen Jr, said he was thrilled to learn that his father’s work was being enjoyed so far away from Alaska. He added that the commission of totem poles at that time allowed the tradition of totem carving to continue.
It turns out that social media has a purpose after all.