Totem Carving at MSU

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An inmate at MSU, a well-known master totem carver, has been given permission to teach 10 inmates the art of pole carving.  Doug Tobin, a Squaxin Island Indian, arranged the donation of a 25 foot cedar log and paid for purchase of all carving tools out of his earning from poles he has carved prior to his incarceration, which fetch nearly $3000 per foot according to an expert in American Indian art.  Like the hammers and screwdrivers used in vocational programs, all carving tools were inventoried, labeled, and sent to maintenance where they are secured each day in a locked metal box.  MCC Superintendant Scott Frakes has given his support for the project citing educational, cultural, and spiritual benefits for all involved.  The completed pole will stay at the 365 acre prison complex.


One carver, Raymond Louie, stated “I think it’s a great program.  It teaches patience, cultural history, teamwork, and may also provide an income for those who are willing to invest the time and effort to become a master carver. There is currently no job training at MSU outside of IT Core

(a pre-vocational computer program).  I hope that we are allowed to continue with another totem when this one is completed in approximately three months.”

by Jim Polley