The carving of bone, wood, and stone is an ancient and distinctive art among the people of the Northwest Coast. Their love of beauty may first have been expressed by the carving of utilitarian objects such as ladles, bowls, and boxes, and later developed into the monumental totem poles. It is believed the earliest “totem poles” were structural interior house posts; next to be developed may have been posts at the exterior corners of clan houses. Detached, exterior poles reached their zenith in the late 19th century.
These 2 fragments of a Kaigani Haida pole from Old Kaasaan on Prince of Wales Island represent well that tradition. These are original pieces of 1 of the 2 Yaadaas clan crest corner poles brought to the park in 1906. This pole originally stood at 23’ and along with its twin, stood at the exterior corners of the Yaadaas clan house.
Like a number of poles in the Park, they were first shipped to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, MO and then on to the 1905 Lewis and Cark Exposition in Portland, OR before being brought to Sitka in 1906 and erected in the Park. Photographic evidence shows that the poles were carved before 1885.
To the right of the doors you can see at the top the weary watchman, ever vigilant over the members of the village. Below him is Raven. On the left side of the doors is a bear which was the base figure of the pole.
The original twin of this pole is on exhibit in Totem Hall in the visitor center.
Replicas of both the 1st twin and the 2nd twin stand outside farther along the Totem Loop Trail.
These poles, carved out of highly rot resistant red cedar wood, will continue to stand, continue to tell their stories, and continue to display the historical and current power of the clan and crest.