Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Project Jukebox Survey

Help us redesign the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey!

Dave Galanin
Dave Galanin

David Galanin was interviewed on December 8, 1999 by Kristen Griffin and Karen Brewster at the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in Sitka, Alaska. According to Dave's wishes, the interview was tape recorded but not videotaped. At six feet tall, with broad shoulders, and a serious face, Dave created a strong presence in the room. He was a man of few, but eloquent, words. During the interview, Dave is casually leaned back in a chair with his feet propped up on a large block of wood waiting to be carved. He seems relaxed. His background as a radio DJ and his work on the History Pole gave him experience with public speaking and answering questions. He was in a bit of a hurry, with art projects to complete and an upcoming trip to the Te Ra Artfest 2000 in Gisborne, New Zealand to prepare for. In this interview, Dave talks about his work as a silver carver, artist, and Tlingit culture bearer. In addition, he discusses his connections with the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center and the important role the institution plays in the promotion of Alaska Native art and artists, and the Cultural Center's project to carve and raise the Indian River History Pole. This pole was unique in that it was a collaborative effort between clans and they chose to raise it "traditionally." It required a lot of instruction from elders and negotiating between clans. As Director of the Cultural Center Board at the time, Dave was in the center of it all -- all the joy, the celebration, the pride, as well as all the conflict, controversy and struggles to do things "right." Dave shows us some of what went on behind the scenes of this important event. He honestly shares his feelings about the Cultural Center, the pole project, and his artwork.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 98-39-15

Project: Sitka National Historical Park
Date of Interview: Dec 8, 1999
Narrator(s): Dave Galanin
Interviewer(s): Kristen Griffin, Karen Brewster
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Introduction and background history and how he developed his relationship to the Cultural Center

2) Coming from a family of artists that got their start in the Cultural Center

3) Starting as a student in the Cultural Center and then becoming involved in management

4) The idea of a project and getting the Totem Pole Project off the ground

5) Talking with the Elders about what stories would be represented

6) Raising the Pole and the clans working together

7) Name of the pole and what it means to the people

8) Knowing the story behind the pole and clan representation

9) Issues involved with raising a totem pole in the traditional manner

10) Issues involved with raising a totem pole in the traditional manner continued and the protocol involved

11) Understanding a Memorial Potlatch and the proper protocol to follow when putting one on

12) Tradition and art work and what it means

13) Difficulties with the Indian River HistoryTotem Pole Project

14) The meaning behind the figures represented on the Indian River History Pole, and the importance of the Cultural Center

15) Learning about his own Tlingit history through the Cultural Center

16) The importance of the Cultural Center

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Minard, Louis/ apprenticeship/ Cultural Center/ Benson, George -- grandfather/ totem carver|

Section 2: Minard, Louis/ Burkhart, Will -- brother/ mother/ Galanin, Nick -- son/ Park -- playing in/ Sitka -- diverse/ nationalities -- different|

Section 3: board member/ President/ Cultural Center -- incorporated/ Board of Directors/ culture -- knowledge of/ opportunities/ Project -- Indian River Totem Pole/ Wasserman, Kathi -- director|

Section 4: totem pole/ grants -- searching for/ carvers/ Burkhart, Will -- lead carver/ Price, Wayne/ totem pole -- raising/ elders -- meeting with/ Kitka, Herman/ Davis, Herman/ Perkins, Al/ Kanosh, Naomi/ stories -- deciding which ones to put on pole/ clan groups -- represented/ clan leaders -- local/ Perkins, Al -- Kiks.ádi/ Davis, Herman -- Coho/ Kitka, Herman -- Kaagwaantaan|

Section 5: totem pole -- Indian River History Pole/ totem pole -- raising/ totem pole -- traditional/ Mercer, Ed/ relationship -- between board members and the Elders/ contacts/ language -- Yakani?/ Cultural Center|

Section 6: totem pole -- raising/ weather -- bad/ ceremony/ clan groups/ pole -- naming/ Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall/ Fred, Matthew/ grievances -- learn to work through them|

Section 7: totem pole -- Tlingit name/ name -- meaning of/ Indian River/ pole -- design/ Eagle/ Raven/ pole -- contemporary/ houseposts/ panels/ past -- opened/ future -- continues/ totem pole -- meaning of/ totem pole -- landmark|

Section 8: clans -- representation/ clans -- stories/ stories -- migration/ clans -- origins/ figures -- ownership/ marker -- land ownership/ ancestors/ changes/ adapting|

Section 9: totem pole -- raising/ pole raising mechanisms/ Elders -- meeting to gather information/ invitations/ respect/ Raven/ Kaagwaantaan/ speakers/ honored guests/ clans -- songs/ places to stay/ food/ donations/ dancers/ prayer -- opening|

Section 10: totem pole -- raising/ ceremonies/ Cultural Center/ pole raising -- cost/ grants/ workshops/ pole raising -- rules and regulations/ Elders -- panel/ questions/ adoption/ Mercer, Ed/ Memorial Party/ cultural protocol/ guests -- welcoming/ places -- appropriate|

Section 11: cultural protocol/ protocol -- respect/ values/ culture/ Elders -- protecting/ culture -- practicing/ Mercer, Ed/ Kaagwaantaan/ Juneau/ Party -- selection of leader/ Kitka, Herman/ Party -- shows support|

Section 12: language -- speaking/ Kaagwaantaan/ Cultural Center/ art form/ Raven/ Eagle/ Minard, Louis/ legends -- meaning of|

Section 13: director/ board of directors/ directions -- different/ Park Service -- staff/ project -- success/ project -- organization/ people|

Section 14: Raven -- creator/ Kiks.ádi hat/ Coho/ Kiks.ádi Frog/ Eagle/ Bear/ clan groups/ Cultural Center -- focus of/ Cultural Center -- art/ Cultural Center -- oral history projects/ workshops -- protocol/ Native food programs|

Section 15: Kitka, Herman/ recordings/ trading material/ herring oil/ regalia/ Eagle Nest House/ bear ears/ Alexander -- chief of Eagle Nest/ repatriation|

Section 16: Cultural Center -- potential/ Cultural Center -- funding/ opportunities/ origins -- learning|