The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Mo’ AK – Totem Poles and Wooden Streets – Ketchikan

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It’s coming up on a year since I left AK for CA, a ridiculously long time to get these posts completed.

My first step onto AK land was Ketchikan.  Read about that here.   This time I took an extensive walking tour.

Must share this oddity, a huge bus with tiny cubbies in it. Is that strange or what?  Are they sleeping compartments? It was on the ferry.

Ketchikan’s known for its stairs.  Some are labeled as streets.  This view looks down upon town, a blend of trinket shops, galleries, museums and a pretty waterfront.

Some streets are wooden and on supports:

Another view of town looking across a harbor:

Creek Street, pure tourist attraction, but lined with some galleries containing local art. There, a print by a Tlingit artist of a raven spoke to me. It now graces my living room.

Once the red-light district, men used a back trail of sorts to discreetly access the brothels.

It was called Married Man’s Trail.  I followed that path up the hill and eventually wound up at a lovely museum. More on that in a bit.

I saw my first fish ladder.  It allows fish to bypass the steep rapids under that bridge. Wish I’d seen them in action.

My favorite Ketchikan attraction was the Totem Heritage Center.

The Totem Heritage Center houses numerous totems as well as old (and contemporary) weavings, rugs, masks, beaded objects, etc.  The totems are from the 19th century and were retrieved, in the 70’s, from  Tlingit villages at Tongass and  Village Islands and Haida villages on Prince of Wales Island.  The residents of these places moved to towns like Ketchikan in the early 20th century.  Some are severely weathered, some have traces of original paint, others have bits of moss on them, a testament to the wet climate they came from.

Never used for religious or iconic purposes, totems were carved to honor people, events, or show lineage and social standing of the owners.

This photo of a photo puts them into context in a scene from a village.

Though the figures on the totems may be recognizable, only the creator knows the true meaning/purpose of the imagery.  When raised, the totem’s story was revealed, its meaning passed down through oral history. Some tales are lost.  Carved from Red Cedar, all parts of this tree were used for baskets, mats, ropes, clothing, canoes and building materials.

Some are preserved in climate-controlled cases:

A quick trip up the road (only one road there) passed the working harbors containing more fishing boats and float planes.  Here I watched an eagle, with fish in talons, slowly circle for elevation gain up and away from the water.  This image is etched into my mind.  The eagles…so many and mesmerizing to watch.

Ketchikan was the last SE AK stop.  The final Alaska Marine Highway stop was  Prince Rupert, B.C.  which I’ll get to next. How I’d love return!

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