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Tony Rath

When Tony Rath gets away from his half-time job in construction, he can be found under a canopy outside the LCC Center Building, carving a 12-foot totem pole. "This tree is almost 200 years old," he notes. "I call him 'grandfather.'" Rath has built his own tools of the same design as those used in ancient times, except for metal blades in place of stone or bone. "Power tools are rude to trees," he says. "I'm asking the tree to reveal its essence. It needs to be coaxed our gently." Rath grew up in an Apache farming community on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, then spent several years traveling and working on ranches and farms. He wound up in Alaska, where he apprenticed for seven years in the carving styles of Pacific Northwest coastal tribes. He landed in Eugene two years ago, when his truck broke down en route to a ranch near Ellensburg. Here he has found a wife, a child on the way, and a long-term project, carving six totem poles for the college to commemorate Native American veterans of the various branches of military service."The first one took a year," he says. "It may take six years in all. I'm not being paid for this."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 9 February 2006

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