Totem Pole Installed on Campus

The Orchard is known for its beautiful vivid colored flowers, graceful butterflies fluttering in the air, a chorus of birds chirping, and its most recent addition, an intricately designed Totem Pole overseeing the garden.

Last year, a former Hackley family reached out to Peter McAndrew, who was then the Director of Finance and Campus planning at Hackley, to offer a gift. The parents, Ellen Doherty and Michael Granoff, and their children, Sarah Doherty Granoff ‘10, and Caroline Doherty Granoff ‘12, offered their totem pole to Hackley as the family was relocating. They gave it to Hackley because the Granoffs felt that Hackley had been their home and a place that had meaning for them. The family was very excited that their totem pole finally found a new home at a place that was so special to their family for many years.

At first, Mr. McAndrew worried that a gift with spiritual/religious importance could be perceived as inappropriate or cultural appropriation. Mr. McAndrew reached out to Teresa Weber, Director of Advancement at Hackley, to make sure this gift was appropriate to put on school grounds.

After doing some research and having conversations with various people on campus, Ms. Webber concluded that it would be wonderful to implement the totem pole into Hackley grounds, as it was an opportunity to celebrate and educate students about indigenous culture. In order to place the totem pole on Hackley Campus, it was necessary to educate the Hackley community about the Totem Pole’s origin and cultural significance. In December, a Zoom meeting with middle and upper school homerooms was held to educate students about the totem pole and the history behind it as well as the artist who created it, Nathan Jackson.

Nathan Jackson is a Tlingit and Alaskan artist who is known for his totem poles as well as other media works. Jackson served in the military in Germany and became involved in commercial fishing. The Tlingit is a tribe of indigenous people, spanning from Alaska all the way through Canada and North America. Their traditions suggest that their ancestors came from the south and later migrated to various places in North America.

Shortly after his time in the military, fueled by his connection to the natural world during his time on the seas, Jackson developed an unusual hobby: carving totem poles.

Historically, totem poles were created by indigenous groups across the Americas to unify communities and to commemorate their ancestors and lineage. Typically, a spiritual representation of an animal is displayed through the carvings on the totem pole. In addition to the carvings and inscriptions, the colors displayed on the totem pole hold further significance.
The images represented on the Hackley totem, carved by Tlingit artisan Nathan Jackson, are traditional native Alaskan, Tlingit, and Haida. Red can represent the color of blood, representing war or valor. Blue is for the skies and waters, including rivers and lakes. White is for the skies and spacious heavens. They include images of a beaver representing hard work and industry, a mother raven teaching a baby raven, and watchmen representing the protection of the community. In Native culture, the beaver represents productivity, resourcefulness, and persistence. Similarly, ravens can represent intelligence, adaptability, and transformation. All members of the Hackley community are not only welcomed but encouraged to visit the totem pole that stands in the Hackley orchard.

After careful deliberation, the family decided to place the totem pole in the Orchard. This new area at Hackley already represents community, growth, and persistence, which are some of the values that the totem pole stands for. Given this, it was the perfect space for it to be installed and appreciated for years to come. While the totem pole was installed earlier this past fall on December 8th, there has yet to be any formal ceremony or land acknowledgment which will likely take place sometime fall of 2023.