Step close to the pole. (pause) Close your eyes. (pause) Open them. (pause)
The massiveness of this pole has the effect of carrying you back 100 years as it fills your field of vision. Close your eyes again.
You are now a guest in your finest regalia in a large canoe approaching the beach in front of the Kaigani Haida village of Sukkwan which borders southern Tlingit country. Listen to the drum beat resonating through the forest and off the water. The accompanying singing causes you to start swaying. You are being welcomed to the potlatch.
You see poles standing in a row a few feet in front of owners’ houses. You are going to be helping raise this pole to add to the row of impressive columns of carved cedar extending the whole length of the village.
You think about the tripod of logs that creates a strong supporting frame, the ropes that will be used to pull, and the sheer manpower it will take to lift this solid structure off the ground! But your thoughts are interrupted as you are now whisked away to join in the festivities that surround this event. The adrenaline rush will last several days. And you will need it.
(pause—“You may open your eyes again.”)
The figures on this Kaigani Haida pole represent three Tlingit legends, the most interesting of which is depicted by the figure at the bottom with a creature in its mouth. It is the history of how a clan acquired the woodworm as its crest.
Another one of the three legends depicted is a cruel villain of a man pressing one of his children (who was half-human and half-dog) against his coat made from the spine of a fish, killing the child.
Another legend depicted on the pole is the Bear Who Married a Woman — a story claimed by a southern Tlingit clan.
At 4-foot wide, this pole is the finest of the Park’s collection.