Social media photo by Christina Cranston, the co-carver of the pole.
They’re calling it a ridicule pole for Gov. Michael Dunleavy and President Donald Trump, Tommy Joseph, a Sitka Tlingit master carver, told KCAW radio in Sitka. Or a shame pole, if you prefer.
Joseph and his carving partner Kristina Cranston say they’re trying to shame the governor for his vetoes of a budget — an event that has paralyzed the Legislature for months. Sunday will be the 194th day of legislative session.
The carvers, upset over Republican leaders, worked with the tools they have and made a ridicule totem.
The shaming totem poll has captured the attention of the media, as it should, but conservatives have quietly responded, asking Must Read Alaska unanswerable questions:
- Where’s the shame poll for the most recent former lieutenant governor, who was forced out of office?
- Is there a shame poll for the Hoonah man who killed two policemen.
- How about the Angoon man who sexually abused a six-year-old?
There are some things that just cannot be talked about.
Former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott displayed large artwork of a new shaming pole that featured William Seward, the Secretary of State who pushed for the purchase of Alaska from Czarist Russia. The art was prominently featured right outside the Office of the Lieutenant Governor for half of his tenure in office, and he said it would help bring closure for a shameful part of Alaska history.
But at the end of his tenure, Mallott was forced from office for unsavory overtures toward a teenager.
Totem poles are a relatively new development in Northwest Native art. Before the introduction of metal tools in the 18th Century, which were brought by Europeans, totem poles were the size of a walking stick.
As metal tools became available through interaction between Natives and explorers, the poles developed into the monument sizes we see today — large, impressive, and now full of political commentary about those of European heritage.
Earlier this month, Tommy Joseph and other Native artists and their friends draped totem poles in black shrouds to protest the death of art in Alaska with the defunding of the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
But as time has shown, art is not dead at all. It’s just taken a partisan turn.