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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Mukilteo couple buys, donates pole


by Bill Sheets - Everett (WA) Herald Writer


credits: photo: Pancerzewski and his wife, Gayle, examine the pole.


Pancerzewski and his wife, Gayle,  examine the poleMUKILTEO - Thanks to a Mukilteo man, a large piece of Northwest American Indian art has been saved for posterity.

Charlie Pancerzewski, a retired accountant and 35-year resident of Mukilteo, paid more than $30,000 at an auction last month for a carved, authentic Salish pole with a troubled past. He then donated it to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Pancerzewski and his wife, Gayle, who is partly descended from the Tlingit tribe of southeast Alaska, are collectors of Northwest coast art and have donated money to the museum before.

"The pole is a great pole," Pancerzewski said. "Extremely well done."

The pole had faced an uncertain fate because one of its carvers had been in trouble with the law, Port of Olympia spokeswoman Patti Grant said. Doug Tobin of the Squaxin Island tribe in Mason County was paid $66,000 by the port in 1997 to create the pole for a planned public plaza.

At the time, Tobin had finished serving an eight-year sentence for driving the getaway car in a murder-for-hire case, Grant said. Later, after helping create the pole, Tobin was again arrested and convicted of geoduck poaching.

Most of the actual carving was done by other tribal members, Grant said. But when it came time to install the pole in the plaza in 2002, negative public reaction caused the port to reconsider, she said.

The port assembled a panel of residents, which recommended the pole be installed. But dissenting opinions from friends and family of the murder victim prompted the port to decide against it.

The port tried to sell the pole on eBay with a minimum $60,000 bid, to no avail, Grant said. So officials decided to have an auction, and when Burke director George MacDonald learned of it, he notified Pancerzewski.Three sealed bids were submitted - one for $10,000, one for $23,000 and Pancerzewski's for $28,000, Grant said. The total, with sales tax, came to $30,352.

The 36-foot pole was shipped to a Seattle warehouse June 28 and will be kept there until it is erected outside the museum alongside four other Northwest Coast-style poles, MacDonald said.

The tribe did a cleansing ceremony before releasing the pole, Burke spokeswoman Mary Ann Barron said.

Still, neither museum officials nor Pancerzewski was deterred by the pole's past.

"We're primarily interested in the art," Pancerzewski said. "There are people who sometimes do things they shouldn't. That's not for me to judge."

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