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Controversy develops over totem pole in California

A totem pole in California that was created by a Chippewa man has led to charges of plagiarism from the descendants of a prominent Tlingit carver.

Adam "Fortunate Eagle" Nordwall, who now lives in Nevada, carved the pole in the 1970s and donated it to the city of Livemore. But before erecting it, the city chopped it in two pieces. Although it has since been reassembled, Nordwall put a "curse" on the city's sewer system, a hex that he is more than willing to remove.

Enter the family of Charles Brown, one of Alaska's most important Tlingit carvers. They say Nordwall stole the Livermore pole from one of Brown's totems. Both totems appear to share one element: a rendering of a house that had been created for a home design show in the Bay Area.

Nordwall acknowledges working with Brown for the home show in Oakland, although Brown's family claims Nordwall was merely an assistant. The Oakland pole cannot be located at this time for possible comparison with the Livermore pole.

Brown died in 1972 after moving to California. Some of his descendants still live in the Bay Area and don't want Nordwall removing the "curse" because they say the ceremony will insult Tlingit art and culture.

Get the Story:
Curse of the totem (The Anchorage Daily News 5/1)