Totem Giant Clam on Pole at KlawockPhotographed circa 1939. Photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored/recarved the Giant Clam Pole 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.
In their 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven, anthropologist Viola Garfield and architect Linn Forrest note that the Giant Clam Pole belonged to a member of the Raven clan. The totem illustrates Raven’s attempt to destroy a monster. Garfield and Forrest describe the symbolic meaning illustrated by the figures of the pole:
“On top of the pole in Klawak Park is Raven, carved as a hat or headdress worn by his slave. In the slave’s hands is the club with which he was supposed to kill the monster clam. On the original pole the slave’s hands rested on his knees, and a gun was placed in his lap. The carvers agreed that the incident commemorated on the pole took place long before the Tlingit had guns, so they provided the slave with the ancient weapon when they copied the column. They also added the clam and the small white crab, often found in empty shells on the beach. Tales of giant bivalves that sucked down canoes or caught unwary individuals and held them until they drowned are fairly common in Tlingit literature. The locale of this particular story was a town on Baker Island where the ancestors of the present owners once lived.”
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 14, 2017.
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