Saxman Totem Park, the Lincoln Totem Pole – Saxman AK


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established the Saxman Totem Park in 1938 and set up a totem restoration project. Tlingit carvers enrolled in the CCC lead the restoration process. The CCC relocated the Lincoln Totem pole from a village in Southeast Alaska to the new park.

Viola Garfield and Linn Forrest describe the visual characteristics of the Lincoln Totem pole in their 1961 volume, The Wolf and the Raven: “The Lincoln sculpture was in poor condition when the pole was brought to Saxman in 1938. A copy was made for the totem park, and the original was sent to the Territorial Museum in Juneau. Time and the elements have not obliterated the finely chiseled features or the careful attention to detail. Though native artists were not often called upon to carve naturalistic likenesses of real people, portrait masks and miniature figures collected from the area prove that they were thoroughly capable of such portraiture.

Though it has been impossible to establish the exact year it was dedicated, the carving of President Lincoln was raised over Tongass Village in the late 1870’s or the early 1880’s, ten to fifteen years after the events it commemorated.”

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.

Source notes

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

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

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: 55.319500674253135, -131.596195274205

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