Saxman Totem Park, the Loon Tree – Saxman AK


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) relocated the Loon Tree totem from a village in Southeast Alaska to the newly established Saxman Totem Park. At Saxman, the Tlingit craftsmen created a copy of the original totem. 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 Loon Tree totem: “The original Loon Tree Totem was brought from Cape Fox Village and copied at the Saxman workshop. The carving of the original was done by four different artists, of whom three were Tlingit and the fourth a Haida. (The latter artist also carved Kats and his Bear Wife and the bear cub immediately above them). The grooves in the ears of the bear wife are characteristic of Haida carving and would not be used by a Tlingit. The slender body and flattened snout of the bear cub also conform to Haida style. Each of the Tlingit carvers was assigned one of the three upper figures as his contribution. The copy lacks the individuality of the original, on which each bear cub was a distinct personality.”

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 Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest) on July 13, 2017.

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Location Info

Saxman Totem Park
Saxman, AK

Coordinates: 55.31959071853794, -131.5960504349182

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