Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands with the ridicule pole he carved in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, top, and President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands with the ridicule pole he carved in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, top, and President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Ridicule pole makes it to Juneau for recall effort

It wasn’t carved for the recall effort, but it was here for it

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.

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, top, and President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, top, and President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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.

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph includes a pacifier for the likeness of President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph includes a pacifier for the likeness of President Donald Trump. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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.

[Strike reaches its seventh day]

“It’s amazing we were able to make it here for this,” Joseph said.

Sitka artist Tommy Joseph shows the back of a ridicule pole he carved at Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The back of the pole reads “Big Lie.” (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sitka artist Tommy Joseph shows the back of a ridicule pole he carved at Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The back of the pole reads “Big Lie.” (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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.

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of President Donald Trump, shown, and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A ridicule pole carved by Sitka artist Tommy Joseph stands in front of the Planet Alaska Gallery on Ferry Way on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The pole includes likenesses of President Donald Trump, shown, and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“There’s no Dunleavy without this guy,” Joseph said while pointing at his depiction of Trump. “That’s why he’s right there.”

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.

[Colorful crossing comes to Juneau —legally this time]

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 bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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