Since our crab fisherman's tour was over by lunch, we decided to go see what else was to be found in Ketchikan, and stumbled on a great little local tour bus. I had really wanted to learn about totem poles on this trip, and Ketchikan is the place to do that! It was utterly fascinating. I had thought they were religious in nature, but come to find out most are carved to commemmorate special events or marriages between different clans.
Once you caught on to the stylized artwork and caught a few key cultural points, it was easier to "read" them. It was also really neat to see the workshop where the native people are making reproductions of hundred-year-old totems using the ancient techniques and authentic paint colors. We learned about how they drive an almost equally long piece of wood into the ground first, and then cut dovetail-type notches to fit the totem on top of the base without any metal fastenings. If there are wings or a beak to stick out, it's all attached with wooden pegs.
We also learned that fallen poles are called "resting" totems. This one is about 150 years old. I won't post the pictures here, but the poles with Lincoln and Seward on them had great, funny true historical stories behind them. Definitely visit this place if you come to Alaska! Kids would love it, too.
Our guide was a really good story-teller, too, I loved the old Tlingkit legend that these frogs were carved in honor of so much I bought a pair of jade frog earrings to remind me of it. I couldn't wait to get home and tell Natalie about the vain princess who turned into a frog and didn't know it!