A freshly unveiled totem sits in front of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Hall on Nov. 17.
Carvers and another man help unveil the second totem in Klukwan honoring women.
Dancers from Klukwan and Haines celebrate the dedication of two new totems in the village.
Story last updated at 12/5/2012 - 2:13 pm
Klukwan chose a very special way to honor women during the Haines American Bald Eagle Festival this year - by unveiling two new totems.
Lani Hotch, of Klukwan, called it a very momentous occasion.
"It's not very often totems are carved in honor of women," she said. "Women are very important to the Chilkat people and everywhere."
Hotch explained that in Tlingit culture, there has to be a balance. Last year, two warrior totems were raised across the street from the Alaska Native Sisterhood hall in Klukwan. To balance that, totems honoring women were carved.
The first totem shows a woman in traditional garb.
"The woman face, she's got a lip plug in her lip," Hotch said. "That's a sign of status in the old days. Women earned status by hard work and good judgment. Women who were hard working, a woman who was intelligent."
Women worked hard to help their village with subsistence, something still achieved today - from collecting seaweed and berries to preparing game and fish.
"Our people also cherished beauty," Hotch said. "Take something ordinary as a spoon and turn it into a work of art. ... We had quite a legacy of weavers in Klukwan."
The totem features the woman holding a basket full of berries, and at the middle of the totem is a child.
"They say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," Hotch said.
She implored today's young people to step up. Hotch commended a young boy on assisting with a task that needed to be done, without being asked to do so.
"Our children are our future and if we don't take the time to train them now, they won't be equipped when they come of age," Hotch said.
The second totem features a woman in ANS clothing, holding a Bible and also has a child in the middle.
Freda Westman, Grand President for ANS, spoke about the accomplishments of ANS throughout the past 100 years and encouraged people to participate.
"ANS/ANB requires members to work to the betterment of all Alaska natives," Westman said. "ANS doesn't expect individual members to do everything. Do only what you can and no more than that. Your contribution matters. ... I am so glad we get to take a minute to celebrate. I am proud of these totem poles."
Joanne "Elsie" Spud, Klukwan ANS president, spoke of how the best memories have come from the clean up time after events - how much fun the women have afterward socializing. She spoke of how those who are always there to help - for any portion of an event - are a different breed of people.
"These totem poles out there are going to be a sign to me and my kids of the hard work done before us," she said.
The totems were carved by Jim Heaton, and Joe King and Jeff Klanott, Jr. of Klukwan. It took two summers of carving and the carvers started the project before all the funds were in.
Following the unveiling and the speeches, there was of course dancing.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.