Monday, August 27, 2012

Kasaan (between "Sun and Wind" and "Misty Fjords")

I left out Kasaan.  At the end of the entry "Sun and Wind", we sailed into a bay near Old Kasaan.

In the 1700's, several groups of Haida canoed north from Haida Gwaii to settle in the area of Prince of Wales Island, in the south of Southeast Alaska. One group, the Kaigani, settled on nearby Dall Island and then later moved to Old Kasaan. 

Old Kasaan, or "beautiful town", was situated on Skowl Arm, Prince of Wales Island. Chief Skowl was a firm defender of Native customs against Russian Orthodox missionaries during Russian rule. At the end of the nineteenth century, Kasaan had seventeen long houses and sixty of the finest poles in Alaska.

In about 1892, a copper mine opened about 7 miles away in what is now Kasaan. Canneries and a sawmill also opened. Many of the Haida of Old Kasaan moved to Kasaan to find work. One source said that many houses were destroyed in a fire in the early 1900's. By 1905, most people had moved from Old Kasaan to Kasaan.

Old Kasaan Mortuary Poles ca 1890

Mortuary Poles 2012
Old Kasaan Waterfront ca 1890
Old Totem Pole 2012, Partially Burned
Old Kasaan ca 1890
House Posts and Beam
Orca Pole at Old Kasaan
House Beams

Chief Son-I-Hat built his long house a little way out of town next to a salmon spawning river. This is the site of the current Totem Pole Park.

Interior of Chief So-I-Hat's Long House
Reconstructed House Post
Spawning Salmon
In the 1930's, there was a revival of Native pride. Many groups retrieved their totem poles, restoring or reconstructing them. This was also the case in Kasaan.
Grave Marker at Old Kasaan ca 1890
Reconstructed Grave Marker
When we were at Old Kasaan, a young Haida arrived with his girl friend to collect berries. He told us where there were old totems, grave stones, and the remnants of a longhouse.

At Kasaan, we walked to the Totem Park and cemetery. On the way back, we met the father of the young man who had helped us in the morning. The father is a carver; he showed us the small canoe that he was building.

When we left Kasaan, we headed into the Behm Canal.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful photos and historical references of the Southeast Alaska native culture. The scale is based on the enormous cedars rather than human proportions as so much of western culture is. This comes through in your photos. I wish I could drop everything and go down there to see. What an amazing itinerary.
    Rebecca Shaffer, Anchorage Alaska