In 1976, the Sitka National Historical Park marked the nation’s bicentennial with a new direction. Although earlier poles had been carved and raised in the park by Civilian Conservation Corps carvers, the newly carved CCC poles were replicas of earlier poles from elsewhere in Southeast Alaska. In an era of growing Native pride, the Bicentennial Pole project set out to tell a modern story using a traditional format.
A design competition was sponsored and Duane Pasco, a noted North West Coast artist, won the bid to carve a new pole with a design depicting the last 200 years of Pacific Coast Indian cultural history. A living history demonstration was arranged in the park when this 27-foot pole was carved out of the highly rot resistant red cedar.
1. The top figure represents the North West Coast Indian of today, weighing his values -- the old way against the new -- the effect of technology and industry on the people and ecology of the area.
2. The next figure below signifies the arrival of the white man, bringing with him firearms and Christianity. In his right hand is a rolled document, signifying a long line of treaties.
3. The third segment of the pole shows Raven and Eagle holding a copper shield, used in intertribal commerce. The salmon symbolize abundant food sources.
4. The bottom figure is the North West Coast Indian before the arrival of the white man, living close to nature -- sharing a rich material culture and ceremonial life as represented by the halibut fish hook and dance rattle in his hands.
The pole is incomplete which symbolizes the unknown future of the North West Coast Indians. In the hands of the top figure are two staffs. The staff in the left hand is richly carved, symbolizing the abundant cultural heritage of the past. The staff in the right hand is bare, yet to be carved, signifying that the future remains to be seen.