Totems to be Raised at Gajaa Hít in Juneau, Alaska

Totems to be raised in Juneau

Two Eagle and Raven totem poles carved to honor the Tlingit Auk Kwáan clans and long term residents of Indian Village in Juneau will be raised next week.

JUNEAU, ALASKA — The Village Eagle and Raven clans along with Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority are sponsoring a totem pole raising ceremony on Monday, September 29. The ceremony will begin at 11:30 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall (formerly ANB Hall), and attendees will be invited to help carry the poles outside Gajaa Hít in Indian Village at about 12:15.

“The event is open to the public and the community is welcome to attend, “said SHI President Rosita Worl. “We hope a lot of people join us to celebrate this momentous occasion.”

Parking will be scarce, as there is next to no parking nearby. Three slots will be reserved for Elders behind the Andrew Hope Building. SHI recommends that attendees carpool or, if possible, walk to the event. Visitors may be dropped off at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Warrior Street. To simplify traffic, SHI suggests that drivers turn in to Capitol Ave., turn right on Village St., then right again on Warrior St. Drop off passengers there, then leave to park wherever possible.

The totems will replace two Eagle and Raven poles at Gajaa Hít 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 this month.

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 Hít.

Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.


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