Chief Kyan Totem Pole (Ketchikan, Alaska)

Chief Kyan Totem Pole in Ketchikan, Alaska

With more than 80 in the city, the largest collection of totem poles in the world is found in Ketchikan, Alaska between Totem Bright State Historical Park, Saxman Native American Village, and the Totem Heritage Center Museum. Ketchikan is well known for its Native American totem poles and there’s essentially no place in the city where you’re not within eyesight of one of the incredible sculptures.  The totem poles are such popular additions to the city that there are walking tours that exclusively feature the history and heritage of them.

The Chief Kyan Totem pole at Whale Park is what’s known as a lineage pole and features three distinct figures.  There is a crane at the top, a thunderbird halfway down, and a bear at the bottom holding the entire pole up.  This totem pole, much like all totem poles is filled with symbolism, and the three figures represent Chief Kyan and his family.  The crane at the top represents Chief Kyan’s wife, which if you stop to think about, is a really sentiment beautiful.  The thunderbird in the middle represents her clan, and the bear at the bottom is part of Chief Kyan’s family crest.

This particular totem pole is a replica of the original pole from the late 1800s.  In actuality, it is a replica of a replica that was built for the Tlingit chief who sold the 160 acres of land that led to the incorporation of the city of Kethchikan. The original replica still stands and may be seen at the Totem Heritage Center.

There is a legend that if you rub the belly of the bear at the bottom of the totem pole, you will become rich.  There is a catch to the legend however.  It is noted that you will become rich for a period of time, but there is no indication that the time will last long enough for you to enjoy it.