Proud Raven, Panting Wolf
Carving Alaska's New Deal Totem Parks
- PUBLISHED: November 2018
- SUBJECT LISTING: Pacific Northwest / Art and Culture, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Art History / Native American and Indigenous Art
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 288 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 85 b&w illus., 1 map, 19 color plates
- ISBN: 9780295743936
Among Southeast Alaska’s best-known tourist attractions are its totem parks, showcases for monumental wood sculptures by Tlingit and Haida artists. Although the art form is centuries old, the parks date back only to the waning years of the Great Depression, when the US government reversed its policy of suppressing Native practices and began to pay Tlingit and Haida communities to restore older totem poles and move them from ancestral villages into parks designed for tourists.
Dramatically altering the patronage and display of historic Tlingit and Haida crests, this New Deal restoration project had two key aims: to provide economic aid to Native people during the Depression and to recast their traditional art as part of America’s heritage. Less evident is why Haida and Tlingit people agreed to lend their crest monuments to tourist attractions at a time when they were battling the US Forest Service for control of their traditional lands and resources. Drawing on interviews and government records, as well as the totem poles themselves, Emily Moore shows how Tlingit and Haida leaders were able to channel the New Deal promotion of Native art as national art into an assertion of their cultural and political rights. Just as they had for centuries, the poles affirmed the ancestral ties of Haida and Tlingit lineages to their lands.
Supported by the Jill and Joseph McKinstry Book Fund
Authors & Contributors
Emily L. Moore is assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Colorado State University. She grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Moore demonstrates how the Tlingit and Haida were agents in this government-sponsored project as they worked to express their cultural and political sovereignty at a time of considerable discrimination. She makes clear that these totem parks were and remain significant features of Tlingit and Haida cultural life.- Aldona Jonaitis, author of Discovering Totem Poles
Proud Raven fills in gaps in the literature on the art of the Pacific Northwest and offers a nuanced and balanced interrogation of the history of Alaskan tourism.- Elizabeth Hutchinson, author of The Indian Craze
Proud Raven, Panting Wolf is a rich, fascinating account of Alaska’s Haida and Tlingit history as told through their totem poles and their subsequent restorations. The text is a first in describing the important, previously undocumented, stories of how the pole restorations contributed to Alaska Native sovereignty, and an illuminating contribution to understanding the ongoing indigenous cultural renaissance Alaska.- Jeane T'áaw xíwaa Breinig, professor of English, University of Alaska Anchorage
Moore’s well-researched and highly readable study of an important—and often overlooked—period in Native American art history makes a significant contribution to the field.- Jennifer McLerran, Northern Arizona University
This exhaustively researched, poignant, and highly readable Native American art history illuminates Tlingit and Haida art in Southeast Alaska during the Depression era, where the Northwest Coast arts were long thought to be dying, dormant, or otherwise compromised. Instead, Moore demonstrates just how vibrantly alive they really were. Overlooked artists—though still remembered by our Native communities—including 20th century masters George Benson, Lkeinaa, and John Wallace, as well as Tom Ukas, Gunaanastí, and Charles Brown, can now be recognized and celebrated by a broader public.- Ishmael Hope, Inupiaq and Tlingit scholar