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Whooping crane tops a totem pole on Menominee reservation, Wisconsin, photo by Pam Rotella Whooping crane totem displayed on Menominee Reservation
by Pam Rotella
16 August 2012

A whooping crane tops the totem pole in front of Lisa Wauku's home on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin.

Ms. Wauku commissioned the pole in honor of her mother, Dolores Keshena. The Keshenas were a crane clan, and so a crane was included at the top of the pole.

The artist who designed this pole was Gokey, according to Ms. Wauku.

This totem appears to depict a whooping crane, although its light brown color could be interpreted as a sandhill crane. Black wing tips and a black design on the bird's face are characteristics of whooping cranes, while a red crown is common to both crane species.

This is the only whooping crane art that I've seen on a totem pole, although it is likely that others exist. With whooping cranes nearly extinct in the 1940s and their rarity today, whooping crane encounters are more likely an experience of previous generations, a cultural history.

Sandhill cranes continue to live in the area of the Menominee Reservation. Six sandhill cranes were spotted a few miles from the reservation on Wednesday, after these pictures were taken.

Whooping cranes are being reintroduced to Wisconsin by members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, including the International Crane Foundation and Operation Migration. The International Crane Foundation estimates that about 600 whooping cranes are alive today, over 400 of those in the wild.

Crane totem detail, photo by Pam Rotella

Crane totem detail, photo by Pam Rotella


All original content including photographs © 2012 by Pam Rotella.