Swinomish Totem Pole
The carving of the Swinomish Totem Pole was a WPA project on the Swinomish Indian Reservation from 1937-1938. Tribal member Charlie Edwards carved a 61’ log into a visual representation of traditional teachings and guiding spirits that had formerly been held privately by families on the reservation. He topped the pole with a likeness of F. D. R. in gratitude for Roosevelt’s support of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which allowed tribes to govern themselves after years of federal management. President Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt were invited for the dedication on August 20, 1938, but, unable to attend, were represented by Anna Roosevelt Boettiger. John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs also attended the event. The Swinomish Totem Pole was taken down in 1981 due to instability and respectfully preserved in the Tribe’s Social Services Building where it can be seen today. A replica of the pole was carved in 1989 with Washington State Centennial funds and stands today in the exact spot of the 1938 pole, directly across the street from the WPA-funded ball field.
I am the archivist for the Swinomish Tribe and have thoroughly researched the topic. We have actual WPA paperwork from the National Archives. A publication was written in honor of the pole's 75 anniversary in 2013 when we invited Mr. John Boettiger to attend the event.
Project originally submitted by Theresa Trebon on March 23, 2015.
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