Ketchikan Totem Poles, Page 4

Some Other Totem Poles

Totem Heritage Museum Pole

Totem Heritage Museum Pold

I didn’t have enough information about these poles to give them their own pages. The one on the left stands outside the Totem Heritage Center. The two figures at the top are wearing sashes from the ANS (Alaska Native Sisterhood) and ANB (Alaska Native Brotherhood). The woman might represent Elizabeth Peratrovich, an honored civil rights leader of the mid-20th century. I remember our tour guide describing a speech she gave in 1945 that inspired passage of Alaska’s first anti-discrimination act.

That’s clearly the Alaskan state flag at the bottom and a big fish, possibly a whale, in the middle. Other than that, I know nothing. I posted a question to the Totem Heritage Center on Facebook, but no answer so far.

Private Totem

Private Totem

We also saw a number of private totems sitting in people’s yards, in front of stores, and so on.  Our tour guide told us that the homeowner paid upwards of $30,000 for the one on the left. Totems are very difficult to read unless the creator explains them to you, so she had no idea what the figures are. But she did say that the trio of figures at the top are not uncommon and have special meaning.

Unfinished Totem

Unfinished Totem

She also told us that the homeowner to the right carves his own. There were a couple totems in his yard. This one is a work in progress and will probably be painted some day soon.

We saw only a small number of the totem poles in Ketchikan. We didn’t get to Saxman Village or Totem Bight, both with a large number of poles. So we’ll have to go back, right?

Ever since Ketchikan, I’ve been thinking about what my totem pole would be like. Perhaps a bald eagle on top, because I’m an American, a lion underneath because I’m a Leo, next a comedy mask, a writing tablet, and a camera to represent my primary occupations, and at the bottom a German shepherd, a Saint Bernard, an English bulldog, and a Russian wolfhound to represent my four ancestries. Probably too many figures, but I like the idea of the four dogs facing east, west, north, and south.

What would your totem pole be like?


The Totem Heritage Center answered my query. Here’s what they say about the totem that stands outside the center:

The male and female figures represent the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively. Both of these organizations were instrumental in developing support among the Native community to plan the retrieval of the poles at the center from the nearby abandoned SE Native villages. The eagle below the man and woman represents the federal government and Smithsonian Institution’s contributions to the Center. Below the eagle the salmon represents the City of Ketchikan, which provided the site and operation of the Center as part of the City’s Museum Department. The two Alaska flags represent the Alaska State Museum, which conceived and managed the totem retrieval project – the State currently holds the recovered pole in trust for the descendants of the original village inhabitants. The three human figures at the base of the pole represent the students and instructors in three principal areas of study in the Native Arts Study Program: carving, ceremonial regalia, and weaving.

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