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Friday, August 17, 2012

Sealaska comes through with more logs, this time for totems

Bear Up the Mountain

Wrangell Cooperative Association recently had their request of three giant, red, Cedar logs to replicate three totems approved by Sealaska.  

This means that the Undersea Bear, Strong Man, and Bear Up the Mountain totem poles, the three totems in the worst shape on the island, have taken their first step to being re-carved and re-seated in their rightful home on Chief Shakes Island.

In an October, 2011, Master Carver Steve Brown assessed the damages and concluded that complete replication will be required for the Undersea Bear (23’), Strong Man (28’) and the mountain half only of Bear Up the Mountain (17’).  The other totems will be cleaned and/or repaired, it's just that these three each had a foot in the grave.

The Bear Up the Mountain totem has been taken down and sits in two parts behind the Tribal House.  It stayed there over the winter, tarped and on the ground.  The bear part can be rescued with a little paint and elbow grease, but the 17’ mountain is a goner. The Strong Man and Undersea Bear are in dire need of complete re-carve and are currently being stored by the City of Wrangell.

Bear Up Mt
1940, Linn A Forrest Collection
This isn't the first time Sealaska has come up big in the restoration, as they already donated a dozern Cedars.  Those giant trees were logged by Sealaska Timber Corp, planked on Prince of Whales Island and shipped to Wrangell, where they were blessed by the local Native community and adzed in the temporary Carving Shed.  The finished product went to replace the largest pieces of the Tribal house, like the corner posts and sill beams.

“It feels great to know the restoration is going smoothly and we’re on our way to getting the totems back into the ground,” said WCA Pres. Ernie Christian. 

“It's phenomenal to see the Tribal House coming along as fast as it is and the adzed wood just looks beautiful,” added Christian.  "It's almost like it was machined.  I am very impressed with our adzers."

Project Manager Todd White is aiming to have most of the Tribal House finishing work wrapped up by the first of the year, giving him a nice window to get the artwork from the museum back into the house, then the WCA can focus on raising the totems again.

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