As originally observed in the early culture of the Pacific Northwest Indians, the potlatch served as a formal announcement and public validation affirming important events and the rights of individuals, families and clans. Deaths were mourned; children were given names; titles and honors were bestowed; ears were pierced, and so on. Since the invited guests who heard these claims announced and recognized their validity were regarded as witnesses to the proceedings, there were feasts and gifts for all.
This is a Haida potlatch pole, beautifully integrated and an excellent example of Haida carving technique. During the late 1800s this type of pole was the last development in the totem pole family and was the direct result of the accumulation of wealth, gained from employment in the fur trade and fishing industries, plus the availability of good steel tools and commercial paints.
The original pole remains in the Park’s collection and may be viewed in the Totem Preservation Exhibit. Its story was shared at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
This pole is a 2006 replica of the original Yaadaas Crest Pole from Old Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island. Two young Kaigani Haida carvers, brothers from the village of Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island, belong to the Yaadaas clan. What a delight for family and friends to have witnessed this project. Timothy and Joseph Young described their work as a way to honor their ancestors and to share information about their culture and heritage.
As the Park celebrated the centennial anniversary of the 1906 arrival of the Brady totem pole collection with the raising of this new pole replica, the brothers can rest assured that, indeed, the present and future generations of visitors will leave with a newfound respect and admiration. The visitors’ stories will be dispersed far and wide just as guests at potlatches in the past would have gone home with their stories to tell!