- Associated Press - Sunday, August 28, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Juneau police are investigating a theft of four carved Tlingit shields that hung in the entryway of an elementary school.

The shields were taken last week between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

“They sort of formed a gathering spot for families who are entering the building and waiting for their children,” Harborview Elementary School Principal Tom McKenna told the Juneau Empire (https://bit.ly/2c12vgU ). “It was also a spot where children were photographed to be honored for their achievements.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact authorities.

“That’s our primary interest: to have them returned,” McKenna said. “This is uncharacteristic of the Harborview community. We’re all upset about this, and we want them back.”

It’s been eight years since Tlingit artist Benjamin Schleifman was commissioned by the Juneau School District Indian Studies Program to carve the shields.

He said the theft is heartbreaking.

“I was really hoping somebody would’ve turned them in by now,” Schleifman said. “It’s art for kids, for God’s sake.”

Police official Erann Kalwara said the department estimates the shields are worth at least $1,000 apiece.

The theft of native art seems to be a growing trend, she said.

“This year really is when I’ve noticed this happening more,” Kalwara said. “This is becoming more of an event recently. But overall more things are being stolen, which is a very sad thing for our community.”

The shields carry more than a dollar value, McKenna said.

“The most important thing the community needs to know is that these are of extreme cultural and sentimental value for our school community,” he said. “They are irreplaceable.”


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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