Alaska carver Mike Webber has created a totem to memorialize how ExxonMobil has yet to pay its debt to Alaskans on the 18th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill.
Webber’s shame totem pole, carved from a trunk of yellow cedar, carries the etched words, "We will make you whole again."
In 1994, a federal jury told Exxon to pay $5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon appealed and knocked that amount down to $2.5 billion last year. Despite $40 billion in annual profits in 2006, Exxon says it will continue its legal defiance.
The Anchorage Daily News offers this report:
The Exxon pole won’t get money out of the company, but it will remind people what happened, said Webber, 46. The pole’s images of the spill are rife with apocalyptic symbolism and the epic court battle it spawned. It was unveiled at a public ceremony in Cordova on the spill’s 18th anniversary Saturday.
Topping the totem is the upside-down face of former longtime Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, sporting a Pinocchio-like nose.
"So kids can figure out he’s a liar," said Webber Friday afternoon by phone, as he brushed a sealing coat over the recently painted pole.
An oil slick spilling from Raymond’s mouth bears the infamous words uttered by Don Cornett, formerly Exxon’s top official in Alaska, Webber said.
In figures painted on the pole, sea ducks, a sea otter and eagle float dead on the oil. A herring near the slick has lesions. There’s a boat for sale with a family crew on board, commemorating fishermen who went belly up, and a bottle of booze to remind people that Joe Hazelwood, who was captain of the Exxon Valdez, had been drinking before turning the helm of the ship over.
Too bad every American cannot keep Webber’s totem in mind when they are looking to fill up.