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Unlock the mystery of the totem pole

by Cathy Burton, Eiteljorg Director of Education | Aug 19, 2013

Marmon Family Totem Pole 

Author Richard Feldman, M.D. will be in Indy Tuesday, Aug. 19, talking about his new book, Home before the Raven Caws: The Mystery of a Totem Pole

In 1903, a collection of totem poles were removed from Sitka National Historical Park. The 15 poles were sent to the 1904 World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition, in Saint Louis. One pole was damaged and moved to another part of the fair. At the end of the fair 13 poles were sent back to Alaska, as promised to the Native Alaskans.  One pole went to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The repaired pole was sold and people lost track of it and thought it was missing. Dr. Feldman discovered that the missing pole was given to David Parry of Indianapolis  and it was placed in the Golden Hill neighborhood in 1905. The pole was the namesake for “Totem Lane” and eventually rotted and fell, in 1939. Dr. Feldman continued the Totem Pole Project research and raised community interest in bringing a new pole to Indianapolis. One of the delightful chapters in the story was to find out that the carver for the new pole, Lee Wallace, was the great-grandson of the original carver.  

While visiting R.B. Annis Western Family Experience on the Canal level of the Eiteljorg Museum, young people can see a totem pole and build their own using various symbols.

The Native Haida family who owned the right to tell their ancestral story, the Yeltatsie Family, allowed their story to be carved on the new pole. While not an exact replica, the totem pole, inside at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, carries the same story as the original, the story of Wasgo the sea monster, or what the Haida people would call a sea wolf.

Dr. Feldman will speak about the tale of the missing pole and how it ended up in Indiana. His talk will be  in the Multipurpose Room at the Indiana Historical Society tomorrow from Noon to 1 p.m. The Historical Society is located at 450 West. Ohio, downtown Indianapolis.

You’re encouraged to buy or bring in your lunch to enjoy during their Author Series.

Cathy Burton
Director of education


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