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


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


From 1938 to 1942, Tlingit and Haida men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps worked with the US Forest Service to restore nineteenth-century totem poles in Southeast Alaska, re-erecting the poles in “totem parks” for tourists. This dissertation provides the first extensive analysis of this New Deal program, situating the totem parks as “contact zones” where Native American and American parties negotiated 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.