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  • 15. Saanaheit Pole

    Can you imagine if this nearly 60-foot pole had been at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri?! It is taller and has more figures than any other authentically designed pole known. But… the over 70-year-old pole, at the time it was donated, is the only historical pole in the Park that was collected, came directly to the Park, and never left. Although several figures such as the traditional Village Watchman, a bear, and Raven are identifiable, other figures are not, and little information about the story of this intricately carved giant has survived. The original pole was from the Kaigani Haida village of Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island and was donated to the people of Alaska in 1901 by Chief Saanaheit as a memorial to his people. By the late 1930s the original pole had seriously deteriorated. Today only a fragment of the original pole remains. It is the Raven’s head and it is on exhibit in Totem Hall in the visitor center. When the second generation pole was carved by a Native crew of Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the 1940s, the crew had to fit the design onto two logs pieced together, for a single log of adequate height could not be located since Sitka lay north of the region where red cedars grow and the cost of attaining a suitable log was high. The joint is almost hidden by a new support post, but can be seen at the back of the pole. It was the first pole in the Park in 1901 and what a majestic one to welcome all the others that arrived 2 years later.