UPDATE: Steve Jost just wrote the following to me:
The image you posted is not that of the 2010 Census Totem. You can see the totem in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny0-29Ig-FY
Since you have prejudged the value of this important promotional effort before knowing anything about the cost, I’m doubtful the following will be of much solace to you.
In early 2010 while plans were being made for the first enumeration in Noorvik, Alaska, one of the oldest native organizations in the state made a significant gesture. The Alaska Native Brotherhood passed a resolution supporting the Census and forming the creation of a totem pole to mark this significant event. Our Seattle Region put together a plan to commission the art, and have it travel Alaska and Washington State tribal events for several months to promote participation in the 2010 Census. The totem pole is a storytelling icon steeped in the culture and traditions of the Alaska Native and Northwest Pacific Coastal peoples. It is an immediately recognizable symbol to the native people throughout America’s largest state.
The art was commissioned at a cost of $20,000. The cost to have it travel across the country for permanent display at Census is $3,111. We believe strongly that this has been a very effective promotional investment that symbolizes the Census Bureau’s constitutional mandate to ensure a complete count of all tribal lands, especially the 564 Federally recognized tribes. The response to the Census Totem encouraged us to find a permanent home for it here at our headquarters along with other historical Census artifacts.
Now, this must be one of the most flagrant instances of waste that I have ever read about. A “totem pole” that has been created to celebrate the 2010 Census is traveling thousands of miles from Juneau, Alaska to Washington D.C. I’ve already e-mailed Steve Jost at the Census Bureau to find out some more info about the cost of this commission and the transportation of this object. Here’s the report from the Juneau Empire:
JUNEAU – For the first time in history, the 2010 Census commissioned Sitka carver Tommy Joseph to design and carve a totem pole specifically for the Census. Since its completion this spring, the totem pole has traveled throughout many communities in Southeast Alaska during the census data collection process. The totem is currently on display at Goldbelt’s Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau.
A celebration and dedication will be held as the totem begins its journey to its new home at the Census Bureau’s headquarters near Washington, D.C. All are invited to attend the celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 at the Mount Roberts Tramway. Meet the artist, enjoy traditional songs and dances performed by the Children of All Nations, and join the event with other special guests.