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PUBLISHED: 4:24 PM on Tuesday, August 8, 2006
What the totem pole is saying

Courtesy photo
  The people of Yakutat carry the totem to its standing place.
This totem tells the story of X'adaneik', an Eagle boy from the Teikweidi (brown bear) clan, and his love for his father's people, the L'uknax.adi (raven, silver salmon people).

As X'adaneik's mother grieved for her son, she was inspired to have a totem carved as a symbol of her love for her husband's clan, the L'uknax.adi, and as a gift to honor them for supporting her son during his long illness. Though she had no idea what the totem would look like, she secretly commissioned an artist, telling only her Teikweidi sister of her plan.

A few months later, X'adaneik's mother and father received a message from Spirit: X'adaneik' told of his new home in the Spirit World. He now lived on a beautiful island, with tall trees, flowing rivers and plentiful wildlife. He was happy in his new home and was surrounded by his ancestors and uncles. He spoke of how much he'd already learned from his great grandfather and how excited he was to learn the old ways. He'd learned to carve and had already carved a totem pole. He explained that he first carved salmon, then raven, then bear.

X'adaneik' told his father that he must also learn to carve and that his mother must tell the story. He explained that this would help his parents heal their grief and encourage others to bring back the old ways.

Hearing this, his mother realized that this totem pole had never really been her idea at all. It had been X'adaneik's wish all along. She also knew what was to be carved upon the totem.

Although this is a memorial totem, it is also a love story. The bear represents X'adaneik', who holds his father, the silver salmon, while his father, Raven, also holds his son, bear. This love is unshakable, a truth that cannot be undone. To represent this truth, the bear does not show his teeth, but remains closed mouthed; silent and strong. The sun at the very top of the pole represents the joy X'adaneik' brings to his family, for he has always been, and will always be, their "Sunshine Boy."


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