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"For Future Generations": Transculturation and the Totem Parks of the New Deal, 1938-1942


From 1938 to 1942, Tlingit and Haida Native men enrolled in a New Deal work relief program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked with the U.S. Forest Service to restore more than one hundred nineteenth-century totem poles in Southeast Alaska. Reversing decades of assimilation policies that had nearly ended totem pole carving in Alaska at the turn of the century, the CCC restored or replicated nineteenth-century totem poles and re<–>erected them in <“>totem parks designed to attract tourists traveling on the steamship route known as the Inside Passage. This dissertation provides the first extensive analysis of this New Deal program, situating the totem parks as <“>contact zones where Natives and non-Natives met to negotiate the complex (and often cross-purposed) catalysts of the restoration program: modernist primitivism, New Deal nationalist heritage, and indigenous rights movements of the Indian New Deal. Attending to the carving styles as well as to tourist and government photography of the parks, the project positions the totem parks as a case study for a transcultural model of American art history.

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