Chief Johnson Pole
Chief George Johnson, also known as Skookum Johnson, was the leader of the Tsimshians who moved his people from Canada to the Ketchikan area in 1887. He erected the original pole in 1901. It was known the Kadjuk Pole because it represented the heritage of the Kadjuk House of the Raven clan. The kadjuk is the mythological bird represented at the top of the pole.
This pole really stands out around downtown Ketchikan because of more than 30 feet of empty space under the kadjuk. (You might say it stands out like a sore thumb.) The picture to the left might not be completely accurate because I pieced it together from two separate shots. I suspect the pole isn’t long enough and the kadjuk is too big in relationship to the bottom of the pole, but hopefully it’s good enough to give you an idea of the nature of this totem.
So why the empty space? According to the sign next to the pole, the undecorated space is symbolic of “the lofty habitat and high regard in which the crest is held.” I think the carver might also have been trying to depict the bird in flight, unlike the perched birds we saw on other poles. That’s a totally uneducated guess on my part, but when you stand below and look up at him, you can almost feel this bird soaring overhead.
The bottom part of the pole depicts the legend of the fog woman, starting with the twin birds Gitsanuk and Gitsaqeq, who brought fire to the people. Below them is Raven. Then comes Raven’s wife, Fog Woman, holding two salmon because she gave these fish to the people. Raven mistreated her, and in revenge she caused the fish to swim out to sea. But in consideration of others, she caused them to return once a year to spawn.
This pole is another replica carved by Israel Shotridge in 1993.
Click here for a longer article about Chief Johnson and his totem pole.