Totem Poles at Old KasaanBefore relocation to New Kasaan. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 35-TA. Archival photo processed by Brent McKee.
Between 1933 and 1939, crews of Civilian Conservation Corps workers built a trail from the Old Kasaan to the park, constructed a small park, restored traditional native houses, relocated totem poles from abandoned villages, and restored and reconstructed some of the poles. A registration form of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) describes the role of the CCC in the restoration of the Totem Park:
“The U.S. Forest Service used the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program, to provide jobs in Southeast Alaska during the 1930s. The program was used to develop recreational facilities in Tongass National Forest, to create parks for local residents and visitors in different communities, and to preserve the Native peoples’ heritage. In several Southeast Alaska communities, the Forest Service hired local Native people to restore or reconstruct traditional Native houses and totem poles. The Forest Service moved a number of totem poles and pieces from abandoned Southeast Alaska villages, one being Old Kasaan, to Saxman, Sitka, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Klawock, Hydaburg and Kasaan. The poles were either repaired and refurbished or copied by carvers. Linn A. Forrest, an architect for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska, led the effort. CCC funds paid for more than two hundred Native carvers and laborers to restore and replicate Tlingit and Haida traditional houses and totem poles.
At Kasaan, the Whale House and totem pole moved to the community by Chief Son-I-Hat at least thirty-five years earlier were in need of repair. They were documented and restored as part of the CCC program. The Forest Service moved eight totems from Old Kasaan to New Kasaan. The men who restored the building and totem poles were the children of the people who had moved at the turn of the century to Kasaan, including Felix Young, Peter Jones, Walter Young, and Chief Son-I-Hat’s son James Peele. The CCC created a park at Kasaan. A trail from the western edge of the village extended through the woods and along the shore. It passed the totems and Whale House and continued to the village’s two cemeteries. The graves at the cemeteries, about fifty of them, have ornate carved wooden or marble markers. They are a continuation of the carving tradition long associated with the Northwest Coast people. Together, the house, poles, and cemeteries at Kasaan, connected by trail, tell of the Kaigani Haida art and lifeways in Southeast Alaska during the early 1900s.”
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Chief Son-I-Hat's Whale House and Totems Historic District, accessed on June 20, 2017. Wikipedia Page for the Chief Son-I-Hat's Whale House and Totems Historic District, accessed on June 20, 2017. National Park Service Page for the Chief Son-I-Hat's Whale House and Totems Historic District, accessed on June 20, 2017. Forrest, Linn A. Notes relative to the original construction and the reconstruction of Chief Sonihat's Whale House, New Kasaan, P.W.I. November 22, 1938. Copy in files at Kavilco, Inc., Kasaan, Alaska.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on June 20, 2017.