Yakutat Totem Project

The Rasmuson Foundation is celebrating its 60th year in Alaska as a catalyst to promote a better life for Alaskans. The foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, E.A. Rasmuson. E.A. eventually ended up in Yakutat, Alaska, working as a missionary at the Swedish Covenant Church.

Helping to commemorate the foundation’s roots, a totem pole has been commissioned to stand in Yakutat. Sealaska made a donation to support the project, as Rasmuson is a great partner for Sealaska, Sealaska Heritage Institute and many other southeast Native organizations.

Yakutat carver Fred Bemis has been working on the totem since April 2015. The design will include Eagle / Raven and the five Yakutat clans: Humpy (Kwaashkikwaan), Coho (Lunaxadi), Beaver (Galix Kaagwaantaan), Bear (Teikweidi) and Thunderbird (Shunkukeidi). Jenny and E.A Rasmuson will also be carved into the totem, with Jenny holding their son Elmer.

The totem pole will stand next to the Yakutat Senior Center.

Sealaska shareholder Ralph Wolfe has played an integral part with the project. Wolfe has guided the project, selected the log and will lead the totem pole celebration. “This is the first pole to be carved in Yakutat by a local carver in over 300 years,” said Wolfe. “To see how the community has come together and the excitement that is surrounding it is powerful. This is what our people do; I’m honored to be a part of it. It has been very exciting to help rejuvenate a tradition that I have seen growing up on POW.” 

View a few more images.

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