Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan

We arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, by ferry early on Sunday morning. The air was filled with liquid sunshine (rain, as the Ketchikanians call it!). Since we could not get our hotel room until mid-afternoon, we had the hotel lock up all our luggage and we spent the better part of the day walking the downtown area of Ketchikan. We visited the local Visitor’s Center to collect some maps and get some ideas of things to do and see during our 4 days here. Monday (Day 2 here) was equally “sunny” … so much so that everywhere we went, the locals were complaining about all the rain they were getting. Located in a temperate rainforest, Ketchikan gets a LOT of rain every year … the average rainfall is a bit over 135 inches! Now this may sound like a lot (and it is!), but all this moisture makes a wonderfully bliss landscape throughout the surrounding Tongass National Forest … as you will see when we travel to Anan Creek. And 2011 is “shining” down on Ketchikan, and a lot of other small towns along the Inside Passage, with precipitation levels beyond the norm. In fact, as our trip ended, all the local papers were “bragging” of the record setting amount of rain that fell in August! Anyway, due to the amount of rain we were getting, our Day 2 was spent in the downtown, tourist area … close to the hotel!

However, on Day 3 the rain had eased up, to just “nuisance levels”, so we managed to get out and get some of the things checked off our Bucket List. We had discovered that the city has a pretty good bus system and even includes a free shuttle to the downtown area. With that information in hand, we walked across the street from our hotel (the beautiful and old Gilmore Hotel, built in 1927) and caught the shuttle to the Totem Heritage Center, about a mile away.

The Totem Heritage Center houses a priceless collection of 19th Century totem poles and carvings. These were retrieved from several old Indian villages from nearby Tongass Island, Village Island, and from Old Kasaan Village on the Prince of Wales Island (we visited Old Kassaan village near the end of our workshop, so more on Kasaan later). All of the totems displayed in the Totem Heritage Center were carved by Native artists during the heyday of totem pole carving, between the middle and end of the 19th Century. Here are a few images of some of the ancient totems they have housed in the Center (note:  lighting was often low and very difficult to shoot with no flash … and often even harder to handhold and take sharp images under these low lighting conditions! Also, some of the more delicate totems were behind glass, I’m guessing hermetically so, to preserve them.):


Old Totem


Old totem



And this next totem piece, if I remember correctly, is a typical carving of a bear:


Old totem



And here is an ancient totem containing an eagle’s head:


Old totem



Also in the Totem Heritage Center, were old photographs and posters of the natural history of the area. Here is an image I made of a poster that describes the different types of totems, and their meanings:


Poster on types of totems



On another poster, an old photograph of Old Kasaan Village is shown. Interestingly enough, at the end of our photo workshop (which started about 5 days after this day of our trip) we stopped at Kasaan for a couple of hours of hiking around the ancient grounds and remaining totems. I’ll share those photos in a future blog post. Until then, here is what Old Kasaan Village, located on the Prince of Wales Island, looked like in it’s heyday … how cool would that be, to come across such a sight!:


Photo of Old Kasaan Village



And one final image made of a photograph inside the Totem Heritage Center, was this one that shows Chief Johnson’s totem and his house. This photo was made circa 1904, in downtown Ketchikan. The totem still stands today, but the house has been replaced by modern activity and buildings:


Old Photo of Chief Johnson's totem and house



Here is what it looks like near Chief Johnson’s totem today:


Chief Johnson's Totem in 2011


Chief Johnson's Totem, in Ketchikan in 2011


By the way, the last 2 images were taken the following day (Day 4). You can see in the background that the weather actually was pretty nice … between the frequent showers!

And one final image from the Totem Heritage Center, this is a more modern-day totem that stands outside the Center:


Totem outside the Totem Heritage Center


That concludes images made from the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan. From here, we walked a very short distance across Ketchikan Creek to the Ketchikan Fish Hatchery. Tomorrow’s post will feature some images made at the hatchery.

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