Saxman Totem Park, Sun and Raven Totem 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: “Three adventures of Raven, the Culture Hero, were drawn upon for the carvings of the Sun and Raven short mortuary totem. At the top is raven without spread wings. Around his head is the sun halo. On his breast are three, figures, the children of the Sun whom Raven visited during the Deluge. The raven tracks painted on the face of the girl in the center are traditional for women of the Raven phratry. Raven’s wings are decorated with eyes, within which are small faces. These symbolize his power decorated with eyes, within which are small faces. These symbolize his power to change form and also represent joints. The other designs are feathers.

The Sun and Raven Totem was carved in the fall of 1902 and placed in the cemetery on the north point of Pennock Island facing Ketchikan. It was made by a famous Tlingit carver, Kahctan, more widely known as Nawiski, for a woman of the Starfish House of the Raven phratry, as a memorial to her two sons. It was repaired and set up in its present location April 11, 1939, as the first pole in Saxman Totem Park.

An older pole belonging to the same house was dedicated at Tongass before the people moved to Ketchikan, is now in the Ketchikan park. The one carved for Pennock Island was intended as a copy of the Tongass memorial, but the artist had a shorter pole to start with and had room only for the face of Fog-Woman. Her whole figure appears on the older carving.”

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

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; Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest) on July 7, 2017.

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Location Info

Saxman Totem Park
Saxman , AK

Coordinates: 55.3190733426554, -131.59822302422026

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