- By Levi Rickert
ANCHORAGE—Braving frigid temperatures, members of Alaska Native communities took the concept "it takes a village to raise a child" to a different level on Sunday, Oct. 22, when a crowd of more than 500 gathered to raise a totem pole dedicated to healing from the Indian boarding school era.
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland joined the crowd as it raised The Boarding School Totem Pole after Sunday's "Road to Healing" listening session at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. Other attendees included members of the Interior Department's team that has assisted along the Road to Healing tour, as well as Deborah Parker, chief operating officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, and Shelly Lowe, chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Boarding School Healing Totem Pole is the first totem pole dedicated to Indian boarding school survivors, descendants, and ancestors who did not return home. The totem pole was carved this year at the Alaska Native Heritage Center by Haida master carvers Gidaawaan Joe Young and Sgwaayaans T.J. Young. The concept of this special pole was brought forth by Haida Elder Norma Jean Dunne (Haida/Tsimshian).
Haaland and other women, including teen females, blessed the healing totem pole before it was raised. Newland helped Alaska Native men carry the totem pole from where it was carved to the spot it was raised.
The healing totem depicts Bear mother who can be seen clutching her two cubs while the father (in human form) sits above her, embedded in a raven’s tail. Above him, the raven is mid-transformation, at a place in between a human and a raven form. Two children rest comfortably in raven’s ears.
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