It took 30 hours of sailing over two days for it to reach Juneau, but the totem pole ridiculing Gov. Mike Dunleavy and President Donald Trump made it to Juneau.
Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph of Sitka transported the ridicule pole to Juneau via a 24-foot sailboat equipped with a four-horse power motor with help from self-described “concerned Alaskan.” A ridicule pole is a traditional art form meant to tell the story of someone who has done a misdeed.
Joseph, Jackson and the ridicule pole were all present Thursday at the Planet Alaska Gallery in downtown Juneau while signatures were being collected for an effort to recall Dunleavy.
“That’s why we’re here right now,” Joseph said.
But it isn’t why the pole was carved.
Joseph said the timing of the event lined up with his carving of the 11-foot-6-inch pole that bears caricatures of the president and governor, as well as a written message calling for recalling the governor, so it made sense to bring it to Juneau.
The pole had to be transported by sailboat because the ongoing Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific strike eliminated the option of transporting it by ferry.
“It’s amazing we were able to make it here for this,” Joseph said.
Joseph has been carving for 47 years and said he hasn’t typically been an overtly political artist, but while working for the National Museum of the American Indian in 2016 in Washington, D.C., he had previously made artwork condemning the Dakota Access Pipeline. That pipeline’s proposed route was controversial in part because of the impact it would have on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation’s water and ancient grave sites.
The pole is a rebuke of Dunleavy and Trump’s policies and statements, including deregulation, the governor’s budget vetoes and the president’s “go back” Tweets aimed at Democratic congresswomen.
“There’s no Dunleavy without this guy,” Joseph said while pointing at his depiction of Trump. “That’s why he’s right there.”
….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
The ridicule pole was recently carved by Joseph over the course of about three days.
Joseph said it was not more challenging to carve contemporary figures than the work he normally does.
“If I can see it here, I can make it,” Joseph said and pointed to his head.
During its time in Juneau, the pole has visited the University of Alaska Southeast, the Auke Bay Terminal, the Alaska State Capitol and the governor’s mansion.
“We raised it five times yesterday,” Joseph said Thursday.
While Joseph began his return to Sitka Thursday, he said the pole would stick around Juneau for the time being. However, it might not be in the capital city for long.
“I’m hoping it will travel around the country through Indian Country and ultimately in front of the White House,” Joseph said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.