Totem Bight State Historical Park, Thunderbird and Whale – Ketchikan AK

Description

A 2013 Department of Natural Resources, Master Development Plan for Totem Bight describes the characteristics and history of the totem: “This pole illustrates the mythological conception of thunder. A huge bird that lives on the tops of the highest mountains, the thunderbird, creates thunder by beating its wings, and lightening by blinking its eyes. The thunderbird was said to live in the mountains and come down to prey on whales. The whale at the base of the pole symbolizes the mountaintop where the bird rests before devouring his prey and it is said that whale bones can be found on the tops of many mountains where they were carried in ages past.”

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. 71-99.

Totem Bight State Historical Park, Master Development Plan, Department of Natural Resources, 2013, accessed July 15, 2017.

Totem Bight State Historic Site, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1970, accessed July 15, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on July 20, 2017.

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Location Info


Totem Bight State Historical Park
Ketchikan, AK

Coordinates: 55.420846397425045, -131.7711697734024

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