KLAWOCK — A well-attended, three-day celebration culminated with a totem pole raising ceremony Aug. 18 at Prince of Wales Island.
The 37-foot totem stands to honor Alaska’s veterans and was designed with input from veterans.
“This is how we as Tlingit and Haida people acknowledge an event or person by raising a totem pole in their honor,” said Klawock elder Aaron Isaacs, a former Alaska Army National Guardsman and U.S. Army 82nd Airborne paratrooper, in a release. “[This] is what we are doing – honoring all veterans.”
Isaacs, a member of the Alaska State Defense Force and president of the Prince of Wales Island Veterans Association, worked with a local carver, Jon Rowan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, to design the totem. It displays service branches and Prisoners of War-Missing In Action insignias, a 1960s-era U.S. Army Soldier, ancient warrior holding a double-headed dagger and carrying a jade pick, an eagle and raven at the top, and a set of identification tags that veterans can pin unit crests and insignia to in the bottom of the totem pole.
“The eagle and raven are a representation of us watching each other’s back,” explained Rowan in a release.
The totem is also meant to symbolize a mortuary pole where remains were historically preserved inside a small wooden box in the totem.
“Behind the POW-MIA flag we have a bent wood box. That is for our missing brothers and sisters — a place of honor,” Rowan said in a release.