Saxman Totem Park, the Blackfish Pole – Saxman AK


In the 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven, anthropologist Viola Garfield and architect Linn Forrest describe the visual characteristics of the totem pole: “Two adventures of the ancestors of people of Blackfish House of the Wolf phratry are illustrated on this carving. The main section symbolizes the blackfish, or killer whale, from which the group takes its name. The long shaft above the body is the dorsal fin. Originally this was undecorated, but when the copy was made the owners granted permission to add the wolf face and the circle. These symbolize a wooden hat owned by the group, on which a wolf face was painted and carved. The small face with open mouth on the front of the carving represents the blow hole of the whale. The legend of the encounter of their ancestors with the blackfish is so ancient that no one knows when or where they even occurred.

The Blackfish totem is a copy of one that was carved in 1895 and placed in the cemetery on the north point of Pennock Island. It was dedicated by members of Blackfish House to the memory of a relative.”

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.

National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 35-TA

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on July 7, 2017.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Saxman Totem Park
Saxman, Ketchikan, Alaska

Coordinates: 55.3197296, -131.59637229999998

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