Indian Village totem poles come down In Juneau

The two totem poles that stood for 36 years in Juneau’s old Indian Village have been hauled off.

Download Audio:

A work crew with a 12-ton boom truck pulled the delicate poles and hauled them to a warehouse Tuesday. They had deteriorated badly over the years, but were taken away more or less intact.

A 12-ton boom truck delicately lifts a weakened Eagle totem pole off its perch at the Gajaa Hit building. Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO.

Ricardo Worl is the president and CEO of The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, which owns the Gajaa Hít building where the totem poles stood.

“There’s a lot of discussion as to what would be the best and most appropriate solution and what we’re going to do with them,” Worl said. “We even talked about letting them lie in state, here in the village.”

Fear of vandalism and concerns that pedestrians wouldn’t properly respect them have cooled that idea, Worl said.

“So for now, we’re going to bring them to the housing authority warehouse, let them dry out inside the warehouse, and then we’ll decide what we’re gonna do with it from there,” he said.

Brian Wallace was a teenager when he watched the late Edward Kunz Sr. carve the poles. Tuesday, Wallace happened to be passing by and stopped to watch.

“It’s mixed emotions, you know? Seeing something like this, and I don’t know how well it can be restored, or if it’s going back to the spirit of the forest,” Wallace said.

Worl said parts may be salvaged for indoor display.

Meanwhile, a pair of Haida carving brothers that Sealaska Heritage Institute commissioned have completed the new totem poles and nearly finished the new screen that will replace the warehoused ones.

Worl said the target date for raising the new poles is Sept. 29.

Jeremy Hsieh

Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

Previous articlePeninsula Women Swim Across Kachemak Bay
Next articleYup’ik Voters Give Ballot Translation Mixed Reviews