Healing Heart

Jasper Nelson speaks at Healing Heart Memorial Park’s dedication on October 3, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Mcintosh)

A crowd of more than one hundred people gathered Saturday at Healing Heart park in Craig on Prince of Wales Island.

The Healing Heart totem pole first was raised in Craig 20 years ago. Tsimshian master carver Stan Marsden  carved the pole in memory of his son, Jimmy Marsden, who died of a cocaine overdose. Stan Marsden dedicated the pole to the youth of Alaska as a symbol of sobriety.

The ceremony on Saturday was a rededication, and a memorial for the carver who died this summer. Marsden’s grandson, Jasper Nelson, unveiled a new plaque that tells the story of the pole.

“The uninvited guest, the human part of the pole, he is holding a basket of roses which symbolize love peace and healing. He represents the spirt of compassion. The uninvited guest wasn’t originally planned to be on this pole. ”

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Fluck Cates)

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Fluck Cates)

The 46-and-a-half-foot tall pole was a bit longer than expected when it arrived, and not knowing what to put in the humans hands, Marsden left that part uncarved.

“But right near the end of it, a visitor came in and right on the empty block, the only flat part on the pole they left a vase of roses. So that’s what Papa decided to carve in there.”

Roses played an important part in the memorial, as well. A variety of colored roses were passed out, and guests were asked to place them in a heart shaped wreath in memory of those who have died from an overdose or are struggling with addiction.

Many people, including some who had never carved before, helped Marsden with the pole.

“ My Grandpa he never said he carved this pole by himself . He never carved it alone. What he always used to tell us was everybody working together made this pole.”

The uninvited guest holding a basket of roses on the Healing Heart toem pole. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Mcintosh)

The uninvited guest holding a basket of roses on the Healing Heart toem pole (Photo courtesy of Cathy Mcintosh).


The ceremony was followed by a community lunch and dancing. Several Native dance groups traveled from Metlakata, Ketchikan, Hydaburg and Klawock for the occasion.

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