Yax-te Totem (Also Big Dipper Totem) – Juneau AK


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) carved the Yax-te Totem, as part of a restoration program that lasted approximately between 1938 and 1942. The program was part of a larger U.S. Forest Service effort to employ Alaska Natives and conserve totems and Native cultural assets. U.S. Forest Service architect Linn A. Forrest oversaw the joint program of the Forest Service and the CCC throughout Southeast Alaska.

The Yax-te Totem, also known as the Big Dipper Totem, was carved by Frank St. Clair, who was a Tlingit carver from Hoonah, and two CCC enrollees circa 1939-1941. In the early 1990s, after it was damaged by arson, the totem was restored by Arnold Danton. In 2015, under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service and the Juneau Ranger District, it was restored by Tlingit master carver Wayne Price of Haines. The totem has been in the Auke Recreation Area for more than 70 years. It was designed by architect Linn A. Forrest and was the first totem to be raised as part of a larger plan Forrest had for a park at Auke Village. With the advent of World War II, the need for employment through the CCC decreased, which in turn brought the decline of CCC funding. Due to these circumstances, the park at Auke Village was never built.

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

Larry Rakestraw, Totem Pole Restoration, Interview with Linn A. Forrest, August 1, 1971.

Tlingit master carver restores a 74-year-old totem in Alaska, Gregory "Kent" Cummins
Tongass National Forest, U.S. Forest Service
, accessed August 25, 2017.

Governor's Totem Pole gets a brief rest during mansion renovations, Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empire, accessed August 25, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on August 27, 2017.

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Location Info

Auke Recreation Area
Juneau , AK

Coordinates: 58.37893619999999, -134.72554939999998

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