Shame polesPoles used for public ridicule are usually called "shame poles", and were erected to shame individuals or groups for unpaid debts. Shame poles are rarely discussed today, and their meanings have been forgotten in many places. However, they formed an important subset of poles carved throughout the 19th century.
One famous shame pole is the Seward Pole in Saxman, Alaska. It was apparently created to shame the former U.S. Secretary of State for not repaying a Potlatch to the Tlingit people. On this particular pole, it is apparent that it is a shame pole because his nose and ears are painted red, indicating his stinginess. It is a common misconception that the Lincoln pole, also located in Saxman, is also a shame pole but was actually erected to commemorate the U.S Revenue Cutter Lincoln in its role in helping two rival Tlingit clans establish peace.
Another example of the shame pole is the Three Frogs Pole in Wrangell, Alaska. This pole was erected by Chief Shakes to shame the Kiks.ádi clan into repaying a debt incurred by three of their slaves who impregnated some young women in Shakes's clan. When the Kiks.ádi leaders refused to pay support for the illegitimate children Shakes had the pole commissioned to represent the three slaves as frogs, the frog being the primary crest of the Kiks.ádi clan. This debt was never repaid, and thus the pole still stands next to the Chief Shakes Tribal House in Wrangell. This particular pole's unique crossbar shape has become popularly associated with the town of Wrangell. It was thus used, without recognizing the meaning of the pole, as part of the title design of the Wrangell Sentinel newspaper, where it is still seen today.
A pole in Totem Square, in downtown Sitka, Alaska, designed by George Benson and carved by CCC workers in Wrangell in 1942, depicted Russian governor and Russian American Company manager, Alexander Baranof naked. After a Sitka Tribe of Alaska-sponsored removal ceremony, the pole was lowered on October 20th, 2010 with funds from the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services due to safety concerns. The Sitka Sentinel reported that it was "said to be the most photographed totem [pole] in Alaska" while standing.
A Shame pole was erected in Cordova, Alaska on March 24, 2007. It includes the inverted and distorted face of Exxon ex-CEO Lee Raymond, representing the unpaid debt that courts determined Exxon owes for having caused the oil spill in Valdez, Alaska.