Tacoma Totem Pole Contract: Going Once… Going Twice…

After receiving only one bid for the work to prop up a 110-year-old totem pole, this week the City of Tacoma re-released the bid opportunity.

Last year we found out that the Tacoma Totem Pole standing in Fireman's Park was structurally unsound. There was some debate over what could be done for the historic artifact, including some discussion of whether the most respectful thing would be to let it rot. Ultimately the decision was made to keep it upright, reinforced with a single steel support, attached to the totem pole with steel plates and bolts.

In February the City released a request for bids to complete the work, with an estimate of $50,000. The Tacoma Daily Index reports that only one response came back, at $63,100. Not satisfied with that result, the City re-released the bid on April 9 with a quick turn-around time - responses are due by April 16.

If we can't get the work done for under $50,000, should the City reconsider saving the pole, or is its preservation worth the additional cost?

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Erik BRegistered

Tacoma has razed an endless number of historical buildings and monuments in it’s “urban renewal” efforts.  Many more have been lost through fire or arson.

The cost to save the 110 year old totem pole is tiny compared to what the city spends even repairing a sidewalk.

Let’s not lose yet another part of Tacoma’s history as we lost the Luzon.

April 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

I don’t think it’s worth spending $50K on. Even with the support structure this thing is going to be transformed into sawdust by the insects and the elements. Totem poles were meant to be temporary. Let’s not interfere with their destiny.

April 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This thing should be cut down and put in a museum to show a facet of the City’s attitudes in appropriating NW tribal culture if it truely must be preserved.  Why we keep this thing on a pedistal I don’t know.  It is akin to putting depictions of WWII anti-Japanese propaganda in your local park as if those were our ongoing views of Japanese people. 

It is unauthentic and the price to fix it far exceeds making a replica of it.  It is like we are falling for the joke twice to buy something that is culturally worthless, a bastardized cultural symbol not connected to any tribe, and come back years later and want to fix it.  All the while being culturally ignorant of the NW Coast tribe’s actual totem poles.  People go to Fireman’s Park thinking this is a real depiction of a Tribe’s totem pole when it isn’t.  There is no narrative in the park about this being kitsch.

Kickstarter/fundraise for an actual totem pole.  $100,000 can get you a nice one.  Something the City could actually be proud of.

April 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think the best outcome is something along the lines of what Xeno describes—work with Haida, Tlingit, or Kwakiutl artists (maybe the latter because they’re the totem pole makers closest to us) to get a really cool new totem pole for the outdoor spot, and move the old one to the Washington State History Museum or something.  Another option could be a Puyallup-carved figure similar to the welcome figure.  How about $50K from the city with a public/major donor match—it might work.

April 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik BRegistered

The historical totem pole is already set to be saved.  At this point, it is a matter of the City of Tacoma being able to show that they can competently save and reserve a historical artifact.  They have already show great skill and enthusiasm at razing historical buildings.  Hopefully, they will be able to pull this off to save some of Tacoma’s history.

April 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno makes some good points.  I’m definitely for the idea of historical preservation, but that doesn’t mean everything old needs to be preserved. As my dad used to say, we need to put on our thinking caps and come up with some more ideas.

April 13, 2014 at 8:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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A commemorative marker, say just a smooth 50ft steel pole, a representation of an absolute and unchanging geometric form, a super-cylinder, would signify the higher plane of abstract thinking and progressive action that Tacoman’s are famous for globally. Call it “Tacoma Totem Pole.”

April 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Just a steel pole?  Hmm… Maybe we can create something specific to Tacoma with it… something unique?  Wait!  That’s been done!  Tacoma could be the first city to formally recognize festivus!  Is there a tree?  No, instead there’s a pole; requires no decoration.  I find tinsel distracting.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChmhQz5wsOI

April 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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How bout a giant needle?  We clearly need to find more ways to try to show up what Seattle has already done.  That’s why we made the fake totem in the first place right?

April 16, 2014 at 3:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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May 31, 2018 at 9:41 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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