Another piece of the totem-pole mystery solved: The other pole

Another new development this morning in the saga of the stolen West Seattle Rotary Viewpoint Park totem pole. The other pole found along with it in Oregon last week, with information provided by the West Seattle man arrested in the case, is no longer a mystery: We’ve learned it was stolen from Renton.

In this case, as with West Seattle, some non-official sleuthing was involved. According to information shared by Alex Pietsch from the City of Renton, it started when Renton Municipal Arts Commission member Fred Lund brought up concern about the condition of a totem pole on the property of Fred Meyer at Rainier and Sunset, which had been there since 1975. After a subsequent discussion about some possibilities, Lund visited Fred Meyer – and noticed the pole was gone. At first, as a variety of parties started checking into what had happened to it, the possibility of theft didn’t even occur to anyone – they thought perhaps the Duwamish Tribe had it for restoration, since they had talked to a tribal artist about the possibility. Then last week they heard a radio version of the story about the recovered West Seattle totem pole, and the fact a mystery totem pole was found with it. They looked at the photos (same ones we ran here), and comparing them to archived clippings from the pole’s dedication, made the match. They contacted authorities and yesterday, Seattle Police met with store management to confirm. Now the city of Renton will be talking with Fred Meyer and the Duwamish about the pole’s restoration and return. We are working on more details and will add to this story as we get them – we may also have a separate story later today as we continue working on other aspects of the West Seattle pole’s story.

25 Replies to "Another piece of the totem-pole mystery solved: The other pole"

  • dawsonct December 15, 2009 (10:08 am)

    The saddest part of this whole fiasco is public art will continue to become less accessible.
    Not to stereotype, but my guess is this “person” is one of those objectivist, libertarian types who only value community when it profits them.
    What a jerk.

  • k December 15, 2009 (10:32 am)

    Once again WSB deserves the credit for solving mysteries! Thanks to all involved!

  • Lachlan December 15, 2009 (10:55 am)

    Interesting. I really wonder if this suspect in this case was involved with the art stolen from the Tillicum store recently.

    • WSB December 15, 2009 (11:06 am)

      We asked police that last week and they were looking into all possibilities. That’s another reason why charges weren’t filed quickly – a potentially wider investigation takes time.

  • bebecat December 15, 2009 (11:04 am)

    I sense this is just the tip of the iceberg. The pole is estimated to be worth $61,000. x 2 now with the Renton pole $122,000. This must be a profitable business.

  • sam December 15, 2009 (11:15 am)

    from comments, it still seems like the motive hasn’t been identified. protest against public art ? re-selling art for profit ?

    motive is the next part of mystery that I want to know

  • Cheryl December 15, 2009 (11:34 am)

    @Sam – reselling to private collectors is my guess. Art is BIG business & there are many people all over the world that covet Native American art in particular, at any cost.

    I’m glad the mystery of the 2nd pole has been solved. I’m fairly convinced as well that the piece stolen from Tillicum Village is linked to this jerk.

  • Alice December 15, 2009 (11:55 am)

    At my workplace we call mysteries “Code Nancy” (like Nancy Drew). Usually they’re solved pretty quick – I think this is a classic Code Nancy.

  • AJP December 15, 2009 (11:57 am)

    No wonder people steal these, it’s so easy! No one notices that hey, maybe you shouldn’t be taking that…and then no one notices it’s gone for several days.

  • rob December 15, 2009 (12:32 pm)

    i find it bewildering that there is evidently a market out there somewhere for stolen totem poles.
    wouldn’t it be simpler (and more fun) to just hire an artist to make one for you?

  • JoB December 15, 2009 (1:07 pm)

    i suspect people will pay more attention now

  • I'mCold December 15, 2009 (1:20 pm)

    I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next update. Seriously. This story is addicting.

  • WSMom December 15, 2009 (2:57 pm)

    I’m with you “I’mCold”, I’m very curious and love how we’re being fed little bits of info as clues are uncovered.

    • WSB December 15, 2009 (3:32 pm)

      WSM – I’m digging as fast as I can – some stories happen all in one fell swoop, some stories happen in dribs and drabs … Have another sidebar coming up later tonight (news cycle willing) involving work done by the company that’s expressed interest in helping restore it – really fascinating stuff, and yet another in the works – And everyone please remember the Totem Pole Restoration Fund at the Rotary website – any restitution from the suspect won’t happen fast enough to be up front for something like that …

  • José December 15, 2009 (4:53 pm)

    Jeez…they need to start putting alarm sensors on these.

  • 22blades December 15, 2009 (9:44 pm)

    So who is this scumbag?!

    • WSB December 15, 2009 (9:55 pm)

      When charges are filed, we’ll publish the suspect’s name. So far, unless it happened this afternoon, they haven’t been filed yet – TR

  • LyndaB December 15, 2009 (11:22 pm)

    I agree. This has been an especially addicting story. Even on the commute home on the bus, I overheard people talking about it. What’ll happen next? :)

  • Friend O'Dingus December 16, 2009 (8:14 am)

    I like others am very anxious to find out this world class A-hole’s name. I hope they nail him for the MAXIMUM fine AND MAXIMUM jail time (plus restitution of course) in light of the monetary values involved, and the fact that two stolen totems makes a PATTERN of theft.
    This is NOT just some shoplifting case where the perp can claim it was to put food on the table for the family. This was an elaborate scheme to make tens of thousands of dollars (if not over a hundred thousand) by theft.
    String ’em up high for others to see, I say!

  • sophista-tiki December 16, 2009 (9:19 am)

    Looking forward to the story on the company doing restoration. ie: whats involved with restoration and preservation.

    agreed with everyone that this has been the best cliff hanger story.

  • Tony S December 16, 2009 (9:42 am)

    There seems to be an assumption there is a black market for totem poles. Is that truly the case? Does anyone here know that for sure? I can understand assuming so, since this guy went to a lot of trouble to dismantle and steal them away to Oregon. It just seems somewhat unlikely to me that there is a somewhat dilapidated (as was the Renton pole) totem pole black market worth tens of thousand of dollars.

  • Lachlan December 16, 2009 (10:37 am)

    There is a huge black market for stolen antiquities and Native artifacts globally. The most logical conclusion based on the available info is that this and the other pole were stolen to be re-sold.

  • Suits are not boring December 16, 2009 (2:01 pm)

    There is a huge black market for antiquities. While these are not actually old, they are worn and can be passed off as made by tribes (which they are) and probably sold to other countries as Native American artifacts.

    As to how they are removed, if you think about it, most people would never question a person with a crew removing something like that. As Renton noted, you assume someone planned to do it.

  • WM December 16, 2009 (5:40 pm)

    I have found this whole story fascinating. While the profit motive seems to make the most sense, I’d like to offer another possible motive. Maybe this guy likes Indian stuff and was going to keep the totem poles? That doesn’t explain their trip to Oregon, but if he is truly well to do, maybe he was going to have them restored. And maybe the restoration would make them unrecognizable so that he could put them up somewhere? Does anyone know how much property he has in the Lake Sawyer area? There are lots of trees out there. But, then again, if he is rich, couldn’t he just have his own totem pole carved? (Maybe he only likes authentic totem poles?) Anyway, I’m anxiously awaiting the “real” story from the police when he is finally charged.

  • KalHel December 23, 2009 (1:50 am)

    Nope, it turns out it was just for the money.

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