Saturday, January 05, 2013

Eagle Eyed

Eagle Eyed by Seattle Daily Photo
Photo & Text © 2013 Seattle Daily Photo. All rights reserved.
Detail of 1940 Tlingit-carved replacement totem pole that stands in Seattle's Pioneer Square district. The original 60 foot Alaskan pole was erected in Seattle's Pioneer Place after being chopped down and stolen by a group of Seattle businessmen from a Tlingit village on Tongass island in 1899 when the village inhabitants were away fishing. The pole was badly burned by arson in 1938. The Tlingits had long ago asked for return of the pole or for payment to the family from whose home it had been removed. The people responsible for the theft were charged, but never never tried or fined, and eventually (after being wined and dined in Seattle), a new Alaska official dismissed charges. The Tlingits had asked for $20,000 for the stolen pole, but they never got it and finally accepted $500 from the Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper, after which Tlingit artists magnanimously agreed to carve this replica using the charred pieces of the original as a guide. If you compare photos of the original with the 1940 figures, however, there are design differences that make me wonder. The original eagle's face featured a more realistic curved beak, not as stylized as the replica, and a differently shaped mouth with less recessed teeth, from what I can make out from ancient tiny photos. The brows were painted a light color or white on the original, making it look a lot more like a bald eagle.

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