Stories can travel far and wide. And this pole is evidence of that in a unique way. Like many other poles in the Park, it spent time at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. It also was loaned to the U.S. Naval Air Station on Japonski Island across from Sitka and then turned over to Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a boarding high school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs who took over the military facilities after WWII. One of the few originally loaned to the U.S. Navy, it was the only in tact pole when, in 1961, it was arranged for its indefinite loan to the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. It remained there until 1983 when it returned to the Sitka National Historical Park.
A 70 year journey! What a witness to mankind’s movement from a time when the nation was showing off its progress through technology at the expositions at the beginning of the 20th century, to a time of a nation at world war twice, to a time of rebuilding a society, to a time when museums and other public attractions could carry on with inviting people in who had the leisure time now.
This pole blends Haida carving style with three Tlingit stories. At the top is the familiar Village Watchman.
1. A Tlingit figure associated with the creature from which mosquitoes originated is the second totem on this pole.
2. Below that is a female bear holding the hunter who was lost in the woods and he became her husband.
3. The large figure at the base is probably a devilfish or octopus recognized as a bear. Notice the suction cups used as eyebrows. The rock under which the octopus lived is represented by the face shown between its ears, and the octopus holds the man who went to live in the octopus village under the sea and married the octopus princess.
The original of this pole may be viewed in the Totem Preservation Exhibit located outside the visitor center at the north end.