November 23, 2014

Retired shop teacher builds totem pole

Courtesy photo
Charlie Morton stands beside his totem pole.
By Matt Keeton
Staff Writer | reporter@ogemawherald.com
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STERLING — Charlie Morton, a Sterling resident and retired shop teacher from Standish-Sterling High School, recently constructed an 18-foot-tall totem pole, which now sits at the Sterling Sportsman Club.

Morton said that he was inspired by a history class project he did in fifth grade, in which the class built a totem pole. He said that it is something that was on his “bucket list” for some time.

“I remembered when I did it in elementary school,” Morton said. “It was a fun experience then, and I’m a retired shop teacher. It was something fun to do.”

He said that he began the totem pole in January and finished in June. While he has no Native American ancestry, Morton said that he did a lot of research on the subject.

“I did considerable research, because I didn’t want to do something that was improper or unacceptable,” Morton said.

He said that he spent some time visiting the Chippewa cultural center in Mount Pleasant, and spoke extensively with “Indian Joe” of Oscoda, who has done many totem poles and chainsaw carvings.

According to Morton, his totem pole represents different Indian nations. He said it is made from a cedar tree that was knocked over by wind on the Sterling Sportsman Club property. He said that he has placed the totem pole at the club so that it may be viewed by others.

“Where I live, it wouldn’t be visible,” Morton said. “I wanted it in a place where people could see it, especially kids.”

He said that he hopes it will serve a good purpose.

“Hopefully, it will help people to remind them of our Native American history,” Morton said.

Morton said he is unsure whether he will build another totem pole, but he said if he does, he will be better prepared.

“I learned a lot doing it and I think it would be easier the next time,” Morton said.

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