Gonkadate PolePhotographed circa 1939. Photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored/recarved the Gonaqadate 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.
According to Viola Garfield and Linn Forrest (1961), the Raven at the top of the pole suggests that the totem belonged to the Wolf clan. The figure below the Raven is the mythical Wealth Woman, represented as a woman wearing an ornamented ring on her lower lip. The woman is also wearing a spruce hat, the height of which represents wealth and status. Below the Wealth Woman is the Gonaqadate, another well-known mythical figure. The Tlingit and Haida believe that it brings good fortune to those who catch a glimpse of it. The Gonaqadate lives in the ocean and rules over blackfish. It is represented on the pole with both arms and fins, suggesting its dual life as a human and a sea mammal.
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 Gonaqadate Pole:
“According to the legend Wealth Woman carries her infant on her back and two copper shields of great value under her blanket. A man who has fasted and bathed until he is very clean may be fortunate enough to hear the child crying as the Wealth Woman roams through the woods. If he succeeds in locating her and snatching the child from her back, he may demand promises of wealth and good fortune as the price for returning the baby. If he gains particular favor with her, she scratches him on the back with her copper fingernails and tells him, “The scratches will heal very slowly. If you give a scab to anyone who is poor, he will become wealthy. Do not give it to anybody but your very near. He and his relatives will become very rich and will able to give many large potlatches.
It is not often that a man is fortunate enough to see the Wealth Woman, and very few have ever been able to get close enough to snatch her child, but even hearing the baby cry will help a man in his quest for wealth.”
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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