Mythical RavenTotem at Klawock in 1939Photographed in 1939 during restoration/recarving at the newly established Klawock Totem Park. Photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored/recarved the Mythical Raven 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 examine the history the symbolic meaning of the figures represented on the Mythical Raven Pole:
“This pole was carved and dedicated as the final resting place for the ashes of a woman from one of the northern towns, the wife of a Tuxekan man. Nothing could be learned about the particular legends which it was intended to symbolize.
The bird figures […] have been reconstructed as the mythical Raven at the Head of Nass, who held the sun, moon, and stars as his personal property, and who is symbolized by a very large, incurved beak. However, there was difference of opinion as to the identity of the character on this pole. Some thought that the carving represented Kadjuk, the fabulous mountain bird, which also belongs to members of the Raven phratry, but to a different house from that to which the Daylight story rightfully belongs. Since the beak was missing from the old pole when recovered for restoration, there is no way of identifying the creature beyond question.
The second figure on the pole is a frog, and at the base is a brown bear.”
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. 101-103.
Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on August 10, 2017.