Art and architecture: Totems at Permanent Fund HQ returned to Goldbelt Inc. for 50th anniversary

Michael J. Burns Office Building in Juneau.

For decades, totems have stood as a sentry at the Permanent Corporation in Juneau. No more. The totems are moving from downtown to the Goldbelt Inc. headquarters near the Juneau International Airport.

Tlingit artists Ray Peck and Jim Marks carved the totems for Goldbelt, an Alaska Native corporation, which built and sold the building near the Douglas Bridge to the Alaska Permanent Fund in 1998; the totems stayed with the building as it became the headquarters for the Permanent Fund. But the sales contract was clear — Goldbelt could buy the art in the building back for $1.

The building, built in 1991 and then known as Goldbelt Place, is now the Michael J. Burns building, named for a former CEO of the fund, who died in 2015 after leading the fund for over a decade. It is situated at 801 W. 10th Street.

In 2021, Goldbelt President and CEO McHugh Pierre bought the art from APFC, with plans to raise the totem poles, called “Legions and Beliefs,” “Creation of Killer Whale,” and “Strongman,” at Goldbelt’s headquarters, now at 3025 Clinton Drive, Juneau.

Goldbelt will erect them as part of the corporation’s 50th anniversary celebration on Jan. 4, 2024.

“We’re honored to have been the caretakers of the totem poles for the last several decades. It is bittersweet to watch the totems leave our care, but at the same time see the positive impact of their return to Goldbelt,” said Permanent Fund CEO Deven Mitchell.


  1. It would make so much more sense to commission a new totem specifically for the event.

    But again, it’s Goldbelt.

    The snickering you hear downtown is probably Sealaska.

  2. Need to get rid of Raven Totem in front the Courthouse. It is a Religious Symbol
    just like.Tablets of the Ten Commandments would be. I would like to hear from Jen.

    • You have just essentially said since the Bible is a book, all books are Bibles.
      Curious, are you Tlingit? Haida? Tsimshian? I’d bet my house you’ve never heard of Eyak.
      Have you ever even met a Tlingit or heard their stories?

      Do you know how to read totems? Talked to a carver? Are you fluent in SE Native spirituality?
      Totems tell stories. They are used for a wide variety of things. There is a spiritual aspect to them, true, but not in the way you think.

      Totems are as similar to the Ten Commandments as you are to musk ox hair.

      More, most Tlingits are anywhere from nominally to devoutly Easter Orthodox Christian.

      You’re welcome to seek the opinion of someone who will validate your misguided belief. But try to find someone who actually understands Christianity.


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