Sealaska Heritage Institute Sets Date for Totem Pole Trail Ceremony, Faces of Alaska

Photo courtesy of SHI

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will hold a ceremony in April to celebrate the raising of ten totem poles along the Juneau waterfront and the installation of bronze masks at SHI’s arts campus in honor the five major Alaska Native groups. .

The projects, Kootéeyaa Deiyí (Totem Pole Trail) and Faces of Alaska, have been years in the making and include works by master artists from Native American groups across the state.

“SHI continues its efforts to make Juneau the arts capital of the Northwest Coast, and I think people will be surprised to see these facilities,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “We can’t wait to introduce them to the public.”

The ceremony is scheduled for April 22 at Heritage Plaza by the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus on Seward St. The event will be streamed live on SHI’s YouTube channel. The ceremony is open to all and the community is encouraged to attend.

totem pole trail

The ceremony will mark the installation of the first 10 of the 30 totem poles on the Totem Pole Trail, an initiative launched in 2021 through a $2.9 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Through the grant, SHI signed 10 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian artists, including TJ and Joe Young from Hydaburg, Jon Rowan from Klawock, David R. Boxley from Metlakatla, Nathan and Stephen Jackson from Saxman, Nicholas Galanin and Tommy Joseph from Sitka, Robert Mills of Kake and Mick Beasley of Juneau.

Haida artist Warren Peele was also contracted to make a totem pole for the project in 2022 through a separate grant from the Denali Commission.

Peele’s pole will be among the first ten poles installed. Boxley’s pole position is not yet complete and will be lifted at a later date.

The Mellon grant also funded apprentices to mentor each of the artists.

“We discovered through this process that there aren’t many master totem pole carvers on the northwest coast. The SHI Native Artists Committee considers a person a Master Totem Carver if he has carved at least five totem poles. With the limited number of master totem carvers, the mentor-apprentice arrangement became a vital component of the project,” Worl said.

The totem poles will be an entry point from the waterfront to Heritage Square, a space encompassing the intersection of Seward and Front streets and the surrounding area that was named by the city in 2018. Each totem pole will feature a corresponding storyboard identifying to the clan , shields and information related to the work of art.

Alaskan faces

The ceremony will also mark the unveiling of Faces of Alaska, a spectacular monumental art installation at the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus featuring bronze masks representing the five major Alaska Native groups, including the Inupiat, Yup’ik, Alutiiq, and Athabascan. . The fifth group will be a combination of the southeastern, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes because their cultures are very similar.

Master artists from each of Alaska’s five cultural groups were selected to create monumental four-foot bronze masks that are representative of their region’s artistic traditions.

Faces of Alaska art pieces placed on pedestals will provide visitors to the arts campus with a center for discussion and education about the different cultural groups in Alaska. The facility will serve as a gateway to Alaska, introducing other regions and the diversity of the state’s native cultures.

“I saw Juneau and Southeast Alaska as the gateway to the rest of Alaska, and I wanted to introduce visitors and local residents to the other Native American groups in the state. Additionally, other Alaska Native groups have settled in Juneau and Southeast Alaska, and I wanted them to feel welcome in our region,” Worl said.

The pieces were made by artists Perry Eaton (Sugpiaq/Alutiiq), Lawrence Ahvakana (Iñupiaq), Drew Michael (Yup’ik) and Kathleen Carlo-Kendall (Koyukon Athabaskan). Tsimshian artist John Hudson made a bronze mask representing the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.