The events in our lives are often shaped by conflicts that need to be resolved. The ridicule pole served to resolve conflicts through peer pressure and was non-violent. It was erected to notify everyone of an unpaid debt or of harm or injury to another. The crest of the person who owed the debt or caused the harm or injury would be carved into the pole and raised at a potlatch. The righting of the wrong or payment of the debt was accomplished at another potlatch, again, so that there would be many witnesses. Then the pole was burned and the wrong was never mentioned again.
1. At the top of this pole is a figure representing a white man, indicated by the use of curly hair and a beard.
2. The next figure down is holding a shrimp in its mouth, a symbol said to represent a thief.
3. Another symbol of thievery is the crab. Can you identify that figure on the pole? (pause) It is the fourth one from the top in an upside down position. Note the claws. (pause)
4. The bottom figure is a beaver, recognized by the teeth and tail.
The original pole stood in the Kaigani Haida village of Sukkwan. This is a replica carved during the 1938-1942 CCC project using local Native carvers.
An interesting sidelight is that this pole formerly stood near the old foot bridge across Indian River and was swept away in 1941, the heaviest documented flood in the history of the Park. It was retrieved by the U.S. Navy who was involved in gravel removal operations in the area. Perhaps the U.S. Navy just helped right the wrong done so many years ago.