Totems at Klawock Totem ParkPhotographed circa 1940. Photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed the Klawock Totem Park on the Prince of Wales Island, between 1938 and 1940. The CCC selected 21 poles out of the approximately 142 Tlingit and Haida totems that were originally located in the village of Tuxekan. With the accord of the former residents of Tuxekan, the CCC moved the totems to the Klawock Totem Park. The carvings found at Tuxekan were commemorative poles. Unlike other old Native villages, Tuxekan did not have any house post carvings. According to Viola Garfield and Linn Forrest (1961), what also distinguished the carvings at Tuxecan was that they deviated from the “true totem poles” typology that depicted stories or historic events. The 21 totem poles at the Klawock Totem Park are originals and replicas.
The carvings at Klawock are distinct from the carvings of the Tlingit living in the southern regions. The carvings are less detailed, the figures are simplified, and the totems are smaller overall. Moreover, the undecorated portions of the poles are squared, in contrast to the more common rounded shape. These distinctive characteristics might be explained by the fact that the art of totem carving developed relatively late among the Tlingit living on the northwest side of the Prince of Wales Island. According to Garfield and Linn, no poles dated earlier than 1865 were found in this area. Moreover, the cedar forests of this region provided wood less suitable for pole carving.
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 Corp 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. 100-147. Totem Pole Restoration, Larry Lakestraw, Interview with Linn A. Forrest, August 1, 1971. Creative Impact Ministries and North of Hope, Klawock Pole Raising Documentary, accessed August 18, 2017. Capital City Weekly, Three-day Celebration for the Raising of Five Totem Poles in Klawock, accessed August 18, 2017.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee; Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest) on August 9, 2017.