With their striking designs and colors, totem poles are bold statements of the identities and stories of the people who carved them. A totem pole generally served one of four purposes.
Totem poles did not stand along the park’s wooded trails until 1906. Between 1901 and 1903, several Native leaders from villages in southeast Alaska agreed to donate poles to Alaska’s District Governor John G. Brady for the people of Alaska. After exhibiting the poles at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, Governor Brady sent the poles to Sitka where they were erected in the “government park”. Over the years, replicas of some of the original totem poles have been carved as the original poles deteriorated. Many of the poles now standing along the park’s wooded trails are replicas of the originals collected by Governor Brady. The original totem poles that have survived are now conserved and exhibited in Totem Hall at the park visitor center.
For more information about the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park, take the virtual Carved History Walk on this website and refer to the Alaska Geographic publication, Carved History, by Marilyn Knapp, and The Most Striking of Objects by Andrew Patrick.
Did You Know?
The state of Alaska has 33,904 miles of coastline, more than the rest of the United States combined!