Photo: Iconic Big Dipper Totem Restored By Tlingit Carver

Photo: Iconic Big Dipper Totem Restored By Tlingit Carver



The 47-foot Yax té totem has stood sentry over what was once a small shoreline village in southeast Alaska for nearly three quarters of a century. The red cedar pole, also known as the Big Dipper totem, was erected in 1941 at the Auke Recreation Area near Juneau.

For almost 70 years, the pole stood as a tribute to the Aak’w Kwáan people, the ancestors of the Tlingit and the first to settle in the Juneau area. But decades of Juneau’s harsh maritime climate took a toll on the totem and in 2010, fearing the wind could topple the Yax té, the Forest Service lowered the pole and moved it to a warehouse for safekeeping.

Wayne Price, a Tlingit carver from Haines, Alaska, was hired by the Forest Service to restore the totem.

“Among Natives of the northwest coast, 10,000 years of history was kept intact by the carving of totem poles,” said Price, who spent a month this year painstakingly restoring the Yax té totem. “In fact, a totem can be recognized as our history book. Our legends were oral and they were carved on the totems.”

RELATED: Iconic Big Dipper Totem Restored By Tlingit Carver

This image was featured in this week’s Indian Country Today Media Network newsletter.

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