Chief Shakes Historic Site, Kicksetti Pole – Wrangell AK


Tlingit craftsmen enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored the Kicksetti Pole in 1940. The restoration was part of a larger U.S. Forest Service program focused on the restoration of totems and Native cultural assets. Seven of the poles surrounding the Clan House at the Chief Shakes Historic Site are reproductions of older poles, while two are originals. All were carved in 1940 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. A small copy of the Kicksetti Pole was sent to President Roosevelt in 1940 by the Tlingit carvers from Wrangell.

Harry Corser describes the symbolic meaning of the Kicksetti Totem motifs in his 1910 volume, Totem Lore of the Alaska Indians. “The Kicksetti people derived their name from Kicks Bay, where they first stopped in their migrations north from the mouth of the Nass River to the Stikine River. The pole is surmounted with a face which represents a mountain. It is here noticed eyes and faces are very liberally sprinkled over works of art of the north coast Pacific Indians. Their use is to show that some special intelligence or spiritual power was lodged there. This mountain was the camping place on the Stikine River, where the legends of the tribe were supposed to take place. Below is the frog, the emblem of the tribe. One of the chiefs did some mischief to the frog. In consequence, he appears to have fallen into a trance. When he came out of his trance he said that he had been in the underworld and had been taught by the frogs to treat them better, because they were brothers. Below is the old Raven, the Creator, talking to the young Raven that made man. The lowest figure of all is the Kilisnoo beaver. The father belonged to the beaver family and the mother belonged to the frog family. The Thlinget Indians were matronymic. The children always belonged to the mother’s family. The house has the symbol of the sun. The story is that a branch of the family descended from a nephew who was not liked by his uncle, so he wandered away from home and there had a dream that if he would build a house with a round opening, high up in front, it would bring him good luck.”

Part of the photographic material published on this page by the Living New Deal was provided by courtesy of Linn A. Forrest (1905-1986), a practicing architect who photographed the totem poles at the time of their restoration, between 1939 and 1941. Forrest oversaw the joint program of the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps to recruit Alaska native carvers in the restoration and recarving of totem poles throughout Southeast Alaska. Employed by the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon, Forrest transferred to Juneau, Alaska in 1937, where he undertook the totem restoration as one of his first projects. Under his supervision, indigenous carvers preserved and restored 103 totem poles and three Tlingit and Haida community houses. Forrest documented the restoration process and maintained notes and a photo record of a significant portion of the work. He used a Leica camera designed for the then new Kodachrome 35mm color slide format.

Source notes

Chief Shakes Historic Site, Shakes Island, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1970, accessed July 27, 2017.

Corser, Harry. "Totem Lore of the Alaska Indians," 1910, Katchikan: Ryus Drug Co., p. 15, accessed July 28, 2017.

Kiks.adi Pole, The Alaska Herpetological Society, accessed July 27, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on July 28, 2017.

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Location Info

Chief Shakes Historic Site
Wrangell, AK

Coordinates: 56.465386830556994, -132.38041159867248

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