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Inauthentic totem pole to be removed from Tacoma park

July 3, 2021 GMT

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A 72-foot-tall (22-meter-tall) totem pole erected more than a century ago as a tourist attraction in western Washington but that has no connection with local tribes will be removed.

The News Tribune reports that the totem pole at Firefighter’s Park in Tacoma will be removed in about a month following a decision by the Tacoma City Council on Tuesday.

The totem pole erected in 1903 by local businessmen was meant to compete for tourists with a totem pole in Seattle. Two anonymous artists carved the totem pole in Tacoma at a lumberyard on Vashon Island.

The city’s Arts Commission in March decided to remove the totem pole from Tacoma’s municipal art collection. The city council on Tuesday then voted unanimously to take the totem pole off the city’s historic register, where it had been listed since the 1970s. That cleared the way for its removal.

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The Puyallup Tribe had sought the removal of the totem pole.

“There has been a lot of trauma, and we have to tell the true story in order to be able to heal,” said Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Annette Bryan.

Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride said the totem pole will likely be cut into pieces, with a possibility a portion might go to the Tacoma Historical Society where a display would include its full history.

McBride said they hope to commission a new piece of tribal artwork for the park.

The city spent $58,000 in 2014 to brace the old totem pole against collapse.

“This is a great example of what happens when we don’t do our homework,” said Councilwoman Lillian Hunter. “It comes back to haunt us.”