Linn A. Forrest with Klawock craftsmen and the Raven and the WhalePhotographed circa 1939. Edited photo. Original photo courtesy of Linn A. Forrest.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored the Raven and the Whale 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.
The carvings represent the figure of Raven at the bottom of the pole, and a whale at the upper part. In their 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven, anthropologist Viola Garfield and architect Linn Forrest recount “the story of the Raven’s voyage in the stomach of the whale”: “Raven was walking along the beach when he saw a whale far out at sea. He thought how he might kill the whale. He flew out, and when the whale rose, Raven flew into its mouth. He made a fire in its stomach and cooked the fish swallowed by the great mammal. When he had no fish to eat he cut pieces of fat from the whale’s sides. Finally the whale died, and Raven was imprisoned. He then began to sing, “I wish the whale would drift to a good sandy beach, I wish for a fine sandy beach.” Soon they drifted ashore on a beach at the end of a town. Young people from the village saw the whale and came out to cut it up. As they approached they heard a voice singing, “I wish there was a man strong enough to cut open the whale.” The young people were frightened and went back to the village to report what they had heard. Strong men came back with them and cut open the whale. Raven flew away and cleaned himself, for he was very greasy. The people made up a song ridiculing the greasy one who had flown out of the whale, though they did not know it was Raven. He was so ashamed that he did not return. The people ate the whale which Raven had intended should be his food.” Garfield and Forrest also note that “The figure of Raven at the Head of Nass, at the base of the pole, recalls the familiar Origin of Daylight legend.”
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. 100-147.
Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on August 11, 2017.