Saxman Totem Park, the Beaver Posts – Saxman AK

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Description

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) relocated the Beaver Posts totems from a village in Southeast Alaska to the newly established Saxman Totem Park. The CCC set up a totem restoration project in 1938 under the supervision of architect Linn A. Forrest. Tlingit carvers enrolled in the CCC carried out the restoration and carving work.

In the 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven, anthropologist Viola Garfield and architect Linn Forrest describe the visual characteristics of the Beaver Posts totems: “The Beaver house post story belongs to the Basket Bay Tlingit now living at Angoon. A woman from the old Basket Bay village married a Haida and went to live in his town. Her children had the right to the story, including the right to carve the beaver. However, one of them gave it to his Tlingit grandchild, which was unorthodox. The latter was a member of the group that built the house at Tongass and installed the two Beaver posts now in the Saxman Totem Park. The Basket Bay people maintain that the Haida had no right to give the story away, hence the Tongass had no right to carve the beaver. The paddle-shaped, cross-hatched tail on each carving symbolizes the beaver. The face represents the joint at the base of the tail. One beaver holds the magic spear; the other the powerful bow and arrow.

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.

 

Source notes

Garfield, Viola and Linn Forrest, 1961, The Wolf and the Raven, Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 13-56.

Saxman Totem Park, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1979, accessed June 28, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee; Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest) on July 7, 2017.

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Location Info


Saxman Totem Park
Saxman, AK

Coordinates: 55.31923359254435, -131.59773754438856

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