Totem pole being refurbished for new installation

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A 40-foot Auk Tribe totem pole that used to stand outside Centennial Hall in Juneau is being refurbished for its installation in the new atrium at Juneau-Douglas High School.

Tlingit master carver Nathan Jackson and his wife, Dorica, are in Juneau this week. They have traveled from Ketchikan to repaint the pole they carved out of Western red cedar in 1981, and replace some pieces of the wood that had rotted.

The restoration cost is being funded with $15,000 in donations. The donations come from the Downtown Juneau Rotary Club and by Juneau residents Mary Ellen Arvold and Dave Hass in memory of their daughter Elizabeth.

Dorica Jackson said she and her husband have carved and painted more than 50 totems. They were at work Monday morning amid power tools and building supplies in the atrium, which has not been completed.

''I'm only repairing the one part that has already rotted out,'' Nathan Jackson said, as he removed two of the pole-top raven's claws and smoothed the wood down with an adz.

He began shaping a piece of yellow cedar to replace the claws.

''In this particular case, the wood wasn't really all that great. It's going to be inside anyway, so the section I'm adding is not going to weather anymore,'' he said.

Dorica Jackson applied new paint to the dog salmon further down the pole.

The pole was commissioned by the Juneau Centennial Committee in 1981. The Jacksons cleaned and repainted it in 2000. During that visit, Nathan noticed pockets of rot from a previous insect infestation and poor wood condition. He recommended the pole be moved inside.

The pole tells the story of the Yaxtetaan people who are of the raven moiety, or tribal subdivision, and come from the Dipper house, according to Jane Lindsey at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

The top figure on the pole is a raven, and below that are a few circles etched around the wood's circumference. Under that is a frog-like creature, according to Nathan Jackson, with a crown of stars representing the Big Dipper. Below the frog are a dog salmon, a weasel and the Lucky Lady, from the legend of the Aak'w people.

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