An estuary view at Sitka National Historical Park // © 2011 E.W. Merrill
Sitka National Historical Park will commemorate its centennial birthday on April 9. To thematically celebrate the story of Sitka, the celebration will center on raising a totem pole carved with traditional images depicting key elements of the park’s history. Raising a totem pole is a common Southeast Alaskan practice, and the totem pole is a historically significant native artifact.
For many years, Sitka National Historical Park has been known for its collection of totem poles, which started in 1902 when Chief Saanaheit, a leader of the Haida Tribe from Prince of Wales Island, donated a 55-foot totem pole to the park along with other carved items and the stipulation that the artifacts were “to be transported to the government park at Sitka and to be erected and remain there as memorials to [his] people.”
The ceremonial totem pole that will be raised on April 9 is currently a work in progress by Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center artist Tommy Joseph, and is being kept in the carving shed at the back of the park’s visitors’ center, where it can be viewed by the public.