Thursday, June 26, 2014

TOTEM BIGHT STATE HISTORICAL PARK

Ketchikan was the last port of call on our Alaska trip before we disembarked in Vancouver BC.  We didn't have time to explore the town because we had scheduled a couple of excursions for that day, a lumberjack show, which wasn't very good, and a visit to Totem Bight State Historical Park, which was.  Part of the reason the totem pole park was so worthwhile was because our guide was excellent, well spoken and patient in explaining the history and significance of the totems located in the park.

All of the totem poles in the park are authentic and have been restored and repainted only to show how they would have looked when originally erected.  Interestingly, the history of totem poles among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest is actually quite short--less than 200 years--although the history of wood totem carving in that area is probably much longer.  It's also interesting to note that for a time Native Americans were forbidden to practice the art of totem pole carving, on the theory that they needed to leave their native culture behind and to be integrated into the prevailing American culture.  (I do not know if the the Canadian authorities invoked similar prohibitions.)  Even so, fortunately the tradition was maintained by the Indian tribes in secret until the American government realized the value of retaining such cultural traditions.

I made a few attempts to photograph entire totem poles, if only to provide an overall context, but I felt the results were less than satisfactory.




So I reverted to my usual approach of photographing details of some of the totem poles to show better their craftsmanship, as in the following.









I particularly liked this last image and decided to show just a portion not obscured by foliage.


As is typical of Ketchikan, it rained the entire time we were in the town, including our visit to this park.  (Ketchikan is the rainiest city in the U.S., averaging 150 inches of precipitation annually.)  Even so, I thought this was one of the better excursions we took during our trip.

John

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