Alaska News

Tlingit leaders dedicate totem pole in Sen. Murkowski’s D.C. office

WASHINGTON — Tlingit leaders dedicated a storied totem pole in Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office on Tuesday.

The 10-foot tall, 900-pound totem pole, which is on loan from the Sealaska Heritage Institute, has a long history on Capitol Hill. The totem pole once stood in the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ office. When Stevens left Congress, the totem pole journeyed to Alaska Rep. Don Young’s office. When Young died last year, the totem pole traversed Capitol grounds back to Stevens’ old office, now occupied by Murkowski.

At the ceremony, leaders explained that the pole, created by artist Nathan Jackson, is intended to remind Alaska’s representatives in Congress about the Tlingit people. Murkowski affectionately calls the pole the “Old Man.”

Tlingit leaders performed songs to celebrate the dedication and participated in a dance with Murkowski.

[U.S. Senate passes resolution to designate Feb. 16 as National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day]

“We brought our clan leaders here to help awaken the spirit in the pole, because in between offices that had been dormant but also to welcome into its new location and to acknowledge the senator and as the caretaker,” said Sealaska Heritage Institute communications director Ricardo Worl.

Murkowski was adopted into the Tlingit tribe and given the name Aan shaawátk’i, meaning “Lady of the Land,” in 2011.


The pole sits in the corner of Murkowski’s office across from another totem pole, “Mother Bear,” by artist Israel Shotridge, which is on loan from Sealaska Corporation. Murkowski said that having the poles in the room helps ground her work.

“When this pole returned to this office in this space, you could feel that there was a centering in this room,” Murkowski said at the ceremony.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at