A totem pole built a decade ago by elementary students at the Eastside Alternative Elementary School, which used to be located in Eugene, Oregon but is now closed, was installed at another Eugene school on Wednesday, May 30.
Joe Brainard, of the 4J Native Program, led 12 Spencer Butte Middle School students in a ceremony to properly place the totem pole at their school. The 4J Native Program provides free learning activities to Native students in the Eugene School District.
He cleansed the students with sage and then led them as they carried it to the crane that would lift it into place. Watch the video from KEZI News 9 here.
“If anything they brought in doesn’t belong there is taken away and cleansed so when we walk it’s the purity of the sculpture that is being brought into the area,” Brainard said in the KEZI video.
“Ten years ago, before students set the first chisel to the donated cedar log, they learned about the culture and art of northwest tribes; were taught to safely use wood carving tools; and voted on which totems to depict,” KVAL reported.” Those eight totems include, from top to bottom, the thunderbird, wolf, eagle, frog, warrior, beaver, killer whale and bear.
Eleven of the 12 students chosen to carry the pole have Native American heritage and told KEZI they were proud to be part of the ceremony, which was watched by 400 of their peers.
“We want to thank you as a school for allowing us to be a part of your life as we bring forth now something that is going to tie us together forever,” Brainard said in the video. He also said he hopes installing this piece of Native American history will help open “the door to be able to bring the Native culture into the school.”