Tsimshian master carver Stan Marsden led the community of Pelican in designing, carving and raising totem poles to symbolize the spirit of Pelican – an independent, close-knit fishing community. You can see their handiwork in the Unity pole in front of City Hall and in the raven and bear poles in front of Pelican High School.
Marsden traveled to Pelican from Prince of Wales Island over four winters to work with high school students and guide them in the carving process. Their first big project, the 24-foot Unity totem pole stands in front of Pelican City Hall. Virtually everyone in Pelican during the winter of 1998-1999 added their labor to the pole, made from a red cedar trunk brought over from Prince of Wales. Residents voted on which symbols best represented their community, and settled on a bear, king salmon, killer whale, eagle, halibut - and a pelican. Locals and friends from afar gathered in Pelican in May 1999 to raise the pole and celebrate with a music festival.
In 2004, two additional poles were completed, again with Marsden’s guidance. Pelican’s five high school students, along with many other members of the community, carved a bear holding a halibut to symbolize Pelican’s economic mainstay, and a raven symbolizing the town’s independence and ability to care for itself.
Master carver Marsden passed away in 2015. These totems remain as examples of his master carving work, and as symbols of a people coming together to create lasting emblems of their community. The Southeastern Alaska communities of Craig, Hydaberg, Ketchikan and Metlakatla (Marsden’s birthplace) also display totems designed and carved by Marsden.