"On behalf of the family" A Pole Raising Ceremony at the Denver Art Museum

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John P. Lukavic
Chris Patrello


This article examines themes of collaboration and stewardship, the importance of cultural protocols, and the intergenerational transmission of knowledge in the context of a Haida totem pole raising ceremony held at the Denver Art Museum in November 2019.  Collaborating with members of the Wallace family, direct descendants of the original owners of the house frontal and memorial poles in its collection, the Denver Art Museum organized the event to honor the family’s legacy and the history of the poles. In this article, we outline the planning process, events, and outcomes of the event, and situate this within the context of Haida cultural practices. Combined with an analysis of Haida oratory, song, and dance, we demonstrate the ways in which collaborations that honor Haida cultural protocols can engender meaningful relationships between institutions and originating communities.


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Author Biographies

John P. Lukavic, Denver Art Museum

John P. Lukavic is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum.

Chris Patrello, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Chris Patrello is Curator of Anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.


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