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MONUMENTS IN CEDAR
BY EDWARD L. KEITHAHN

Monument, mystical, awesome and ghoulish;
Seemingly purposeless, paganish, foolish;
What is the message your symbols conceal?
Strong the incentive of him that conceived thee
Leaving to adept, its truth to reveal.

From "The Totem Pole"
by Dr. E. Van Note

Contents

I. THE TOTEMPOLAR REGION
The Northwest Coast—Washington, British Columbia, Alaska

II. ANTIQUITY OF THE TOTEMPOLE
From stone age to iron age to golden age

III. TYPES OF TOTEMPOLES
Including real family trees

IV. HOW TO READ A TOTEMPOLE
It’s easy—for those who know how

V. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ORGANIZATION
Ravens, Eagles, Wolves, Bears, Killerwhales

VI. NORTHWEST COAST DECORATIVE ART
Why the frog is as big as the bear

VII. NORTHWEST COAST RELIGION
The Shaman—or Medicine Man—from Asia

VIII. ORAL LITERATURE
How Raven created earth and light
A visit to villages beneath the sea
The flood
Discovery of the white man
—and other legends

IX. THE POTLATCH
Real meaning of the term, "Indian-giver"

X. CARVING AND ERECTING THE TOTEMPOLE
How it was done

XI. TOTEM RESTORATION
Alaskan and Canadian projects restore art for Tourists

XII. LEGENDS IN CEDAR
Mother-in-law trouble
Origin of the mosquito
Thunderbird—the souvenir totempole
The fog women—Chief Johnson’s Potlatch pole
The magic harpoon of Yakutat
The Killisnoo beaver
—and other legends

Bibliography Of Works Consulted

Map of Totempolar Region folded inside back cover
Ethnological chart on reverse side of map

The CoverThe four-color reproduction on the cover is from a photograph by O. C. Schallerer of Ketchikan. It shows the Sun and Raven totempole (see pages 133 and 134), which was removed from Pennock Island, rehabilitated and set up at Saxman, near Ketchikan.

Preface

It was at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition at Seattle in 1909 that I saw my first Alaskan totempole and the wonder that it created in my mind continued to mount, unsatiated, until in 1923 I glimpsed my first totem clusters in situ at Bella Bella, Alert Bay and at Ketchikan. But it was not until 1928 when I came to live in the "Totempolar Region" that my early desire to know more about them was finally made possible. The following thirteen years were spent in Tlingit and Haida villages, in the Indian Service, where the ethnography of these totem-carvers became my chief avocation and the mysteries of these strange monuments of cedar, at long last, began to unfold.

This book is an attempt to put between two covers the brief conclusions of some eighteen years of leisurely research on the totempole as an "institution" together with the findings of others in the same field in the past 200 years. The chapters should be read in proper sequence. A bibliography for further reading is included for those who might wish to carry the study further, for much is yet to be revealed.

I should like to credit all who have contributed in any way to the success of this volume but that is impossible—there were so many. To enumerate a few who come to mind, a number of whom have passed on, there are the Kake Tlingits: Mrs. Frank Booth, Charles S. Johnson, Tom Skeek and Peter Grant. Also at Kake, the trader Ernest Kirberger, who has resided there for forty-five years and speaks the language fluently. At Hydaburg, the Haidas: Rev. Sam Davis, John Wallace, Paul Morrison, Alex Peele and the Yeltatzies, Edenshaws, Skulkas, Skillies; Douglas, Charles, Grant, Nix, Luke Frank and many others. At Wrangell the Tlingits Mathilda Tamaree, Chief Shakes (Charlie Jones), Walter Shaddesty, Tom Ukas and others, besides U. S. Commissioner Dick Suratt and Walter Waters, both of whom were rich in Indian lore.

Early information of the Chilkats at Klukwan came from Lloyd Winter and Percy Pond and from the Chilkats Ed Shotridge, Gus Klaney and Charley Tagcook. Much valuable material on the Takus, Auks and Hoonahs came from Charles Goldstein, Dr. Robert Simpson, Jake Cropley and Henry Moses.

In the Ketchikan-Metlakatla area the Tsimshians Robert Ridley and Father Mather were helpful while William Beynon and Indian Agent J. Gillett gave facts and figures from the Canadian side.

Others who helped in specific assignments or in general were the historian, C. L. Andrews, Lt. George T. Emmons, eminent ethnologist of Victoria, B. C., Maxcine Williams and Linn Forrest.

For the material on restoration and many of the photographs I thank Mr. B. Frank Heintzleman, Regional Forester of the U. S. Forest Service and his very able and co-operative staff. Other photographs were generously contributed by Otto Schallerer of Ketchikan, Dr. Will Chase of Cordova, Winter and Pond of Juneau and the Photo Shop Studio at Sitka. I gratefully acknowledge help from many other sources and individuals which, at the moment, escape me.

Edward L. Keithahn

 

 

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