It’s been almost 2-years since a Sitka based coast guard helicopter crashed in Washington State killing three of its four men on board. In memory of the men who died the U.S. Coast Guard has recently commissioned master carver Wayne Price to carve a totem pole in their honor. On Friday the Coast Guard ‘Cutter Maple’ stopped in Wrangell to meet with Price and pick up two red cedar trees chosen by Price for the project.

“It’ll be two years this July and Mr. Price is carving a totem pole to memorialize the shipmates that we lost.” That’s Lt. Commanding Officer Daniel Gray. Gray and the rest of the ship gathered to watch as Price sang two traditional Tlingit songs to acknowledge the journey of the cedar trees and ensure them a safe voyage to Sitka.

“One song was a sad song the other was a happy song so that there is a balance. The morning song I sang to honor the fallen coast guards, and the happy song I sung to acknowledge the logs that will be going to Sitka where they will be taken to Totem Park and turned into totem poles,” he says.

“That was a real treat to be able to listen to that and we are very lucky to have such an intimate setting and be a part of the journey.” That’s Executive Officer Collin Bronson. He says he considers this project to be a very special tribute to the fallen guards men and community of Sitka.

In mid November Price plans to head to Sitka to begin carving the totem pole. This will be Price’s first totem pole created for the U.S. Coast Guard and he says it will incorporate traditional Tlingit imagery blended with modern depictions of the coast guard to tell the story.

“The very bottom figure is a raven, raven is the creator and holds us up, it represents the raven half of the eagles and ravens. The next two figures will be male and female coast guard back to back,” he says.

On the back side of the totem pole Price will carve the helm of a coast guard ship, and above that a light house which he’s designed to give off actual light. Under the lights he plans to carve the three guards men who died in the crash.

“They will be standing guard under the light, and there will be an eagle like the American eagle, and the eagle represents the eagle half of eagle and raven, and represents all the people the coast guard protects,” he says.

Price says the Tlingit people and U.S. Coast Guard have had a long history on the waters together and says he is happy to be the one telling this story through the totem pole.

“It’s our history book it’s how we keep track of our stories.This is a new story being written and I want write it on a totem pole and represent all coast guards. They are the oldest branch of the service in the United States and I want to do them a great honor with the project they have asked me to do,” he says.

The totem pole is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2012, and at that time it will be presented to the public at Totem Park in Sitka.
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