Totem pole placed at Eugene school

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EUGENE, Ore. - A decade ago, students at the now-closed Eastside Alternative Elementary School carved a totem pole as part of a class about the culture and art of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

A coastal tribal elder led students at Spencer Butte Middle School on Wednesday as they carried the totem pole to its new home on the south Eugene school's campus.

The totem pole was handcarved in the style of the Haida people, with the knowledge and permission of local native groups. Vic Hansen, the teacher who worked with students to create the pole, attended the ceremony.

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.

The students chose eight totems to carve, from top to bottom:

Thunderbird – powerful protector, made thunder and lightning with his wings, could see a long way

Wolf – good hunter, loyal to his pack        

Eagle – powerful eyesight, a good hunter and flyer

Frog – powerful swimmer and a source of food to many animals        

Warrior – good speaker, loyal to the tribe

Beaver – good home builder and powerful swimmer, dams created a rich habitat for many other animals

Killer Whale – powerful swimmer, ruler of the ocean

Bear – powerful enough to hold up all the other totems, a good fighter, loyal to his family and tribe