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Totem Trail - Sitka National Historical Park

Trail Guide for the Totem Trail in Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka, AK.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 miles
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Family Friendly

Overview :  The Totem Trail showcases totem poles that reproduce those donated by SE Alaska Native leaders to be exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis... more »

Tips:  Bring a raincoat--it rains a lot in Sitka. Bring your camera, you'll need that too.

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Points of Interest

1. Totem 1

Yaadaas Crest Corner Pole Fragments

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... More

2. Totem 2

Frog/Raven Pole

Totem poles stand through time recalling past events. As you begin your journey at the entrance to the temperate rainforest, you are a witness in another time. You will experience some of the skills of these creative and talented artists, of their forest and ocean world, and of their respect for every living thing in it.

... More

3. Centennial Totem

Totem Carved for park centennial in 2011

4. Totem 3

Yaadaas Crest Corner Pole--The First Twin

Mysteries abound throughout life. Some are solved with ready answers. Others have theories that are continually tested. Others will never have answers.

Such is the case for the Yaadaas Crest Corner Poles. Two seemingly identical poles stood at the exterior front corners of the Yaadaas clan house in... More

5. Totem 4

Wolf Pole

A totem pole carver is a professional artist, and depending upon his excellence in the craft, his reputation could spread throughout the region. Totem pole carving was traditionally the responsibility of a select group of craftsmen who have been formally trained in an apprenticeship system. A totem is carved by an artist of a clan... More

6. Totem 5

Cormorant Memorial or Mortuary Pole

Memorial and mortuary columns were common pole types found in Southeast Alaska. Memorial poles, along with house posts, are among the oldest forms of totem poles.

There seems to be a fine distinction between memorial and mortuary poles. The mortuary pole was an actual internment, while the memorial pole was ... More

7. Totem 6

Raven/Shark Pole

It seems all cultures had a way of instructing timeless lessons on life through stories. The Tlingit Raven/Shark legend is edified through this pole.

In ancient times, Raven came to a large village under the ocean. There he saw a very nice looking lady. The longer he watched her, the more beautiful she became. He could not... More

8. Totem 7

Yaadaas Crest Corner Pole—Second Twin

A figure of the Village Watchman at the top is unique to Haida crest poles and has no significance or relationship to the crests. It was intended to let the people know that they were being watched over and will be protected.

The clan chief’s hat worn by the Watchman is often mistakenly thought to be the... More

9. Totem 8

Trader Legend Pole

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... More

10. Totem 9

Gaanax.adi/Raven Crest Pole

Totem poles are contributions to the values, character and experiences of the clans who hosted the potlatches to raise the poles. More important than physical possessions of the Tlingit and Haida, though, are their crests. Anytime and anywhere crests are used, whether on blankets, tunics, hunting tools, spoons or... More

11. Totem 10

Raven Memorial Pole

The figures that appear on poles may be distinguished by their most distinctive features.

The loon is distinguished from other birds by a white neck-band,
the eagle by a white head and large curved beak,
the crane by a long narrow beak,
the owl by a short curved beak,
the cormorant by a long narrow beak, rather oval in... More

12. Totem 11

Lakich’inei Pole

Step close to the pole. (pause) Close your eyes. (pause) Open them. (pause)

The massiveness of this pole has the effect of carrying you back 100 years as it fills your field of vision. Close your eyes again.

You are now a guest in your finest regalia in a large canoe approaching the beach in front of the Kaigani Haida... More

13. Totem 12

Mosquito Legend Pole

Stories can travel far and wide. And this pole is evidence of that in a unique way. Like many other poles in the Park, it spent time at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, MO and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, OR. It also was loaned to the US Naval Air Station on Japonski Island across... More

14. Fort Site

Site of the Tlingit fort that was attacked by Russians in 1804.

15. Totem 13

K’alyaan Pole

The Tlingit quietly left the sapling fort during the night, even though the fort construction would allow the propelled Russian cannonballs to give under the pressure. It had been a 6-day siege on the Tlingit stronghold near Indian River but the Tlingits were low on gunpowder. They would then walk across the island in an event now... More

16. Totem 14

Saanaheit House Posts

Observing Tlingit or Haida dwellings would excite the senses.

A single-story, low-pitched 20X30 structure with a gabled roof faced the ocean.
Overlapping planks of red cedar or spruce were roughly hewn.
A central rectangular area inside was excavated for a large single hearth. A smoke hole was directly above.
20-30... More

17. Totem 15

Saanaheit Pole

Can you imagine if this nearly 60’ pole had been at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, MO?! It is taller and has more figures than any other authentically designed pole known!

But… the over 70 year old pole at the time it was donated, is the only historical pole in the Park that was collected, came directly... More

18. Totem 16

History Pole

Culture/community; conflict/compromise. This pole is unusual in that it includes crest figures from both Raven and Eagle moieties. It is intended to be a public display of unity, putting old clan differences aside and working for the good of all Tlingit people.

In 1996, the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural center commissioned... More

19. Totem 17

Bicentennial Pole

In 1976, the Sitka National Historical Park marked the nation’s bicentennial with a new direction. Although earlier poles had been carved and raised in the park by Civilian Conservation Corps carvers, the newly carved CCC poles were replicas of earlier poles from elsewhere in Southeast Alaska. In an era of growing Native pride... More

20. Totem 18

Yaadaas Crest Pole

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... More