Bullhead and the Fight with the Land Otters, circa 1939Linn A. Forrest posing with Klawock craftsmen next to the Bullhead and the Fight with the Land Otters. Photographed circa 1939. Photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored/recarved the Bullhead and the Fight with the Land Otters between 1938 and 1940. The restoration was part of a larger U.S. Forest Service program focused on the conservation of totems and Native cultural assets. The pole was originally found at the abandoned village of Tuxekan. With the accord of the former residents, the CCC and the U.S. Forrest Service relocated the pole to the Klawock Totem Park on the Prince of Wales Island. According to Viola Garfield and Linn Forrest (1961), the members of the Raven clan, who used to own the original pole, invited the members of the Wolf phratry to the inauguration of this pole in the Klawock Totem Park. They marked the dedication with a lavish potlatch that recalled the one at the raising of the original pole in Tuxekan.
The pole was a grave marker of a member of the Raven clan, as the figure of the Raven at the top of the totem suggests. The large size of the bullhead figure also suggests its importance to the crest of the clan that owned the totem. The fish spans most of the length of the pole and can be identified by the two spines, broad head, and toothless mouth. Its sides are carved with patterns suggesting the backbone, the ribs, the tail, and pectoral fins with carvings of formal motifs. Four human figures decorate the spine of the fish, their noses stretching out to suggest the shape of the dorsal fins.
In their 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven, anthropologist Viola Garfield and architect Linn Forrest recount the story illustrated by the carvings of the Bullhead and the Fight with the Land Otters: “The figures carved on the bullhead’s back represent the four boys who disobeyed the fundamental law of nature: that no creature should be ridiculed or tortured. Their disobedience brought death to themselves and harrowing experiences to the people of their village. The Tuxekan people were then living at Warm Chuck Inlet, Heceta Island.”
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.
Garfield, Viola and Linn Forrest, 1961, The Wolf and the Raven, Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 105-109.
Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on August 13, 2017.
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