Sitka Totem Park
Touring Giant TotemsSitka was our first stop in The Last Frontier before venturing out on an Alaskan Dream Cruise of the Inside Passage.
We arrived on an early morning flight from Seattle to a cloudless, 80-degree day in late June. The locals were abuzz since the forecast predicted the coming weekend would likely be the only days like this for the entire summer.
Eager to capitalize on the conditions, we started with a nice walk from the Sitka National Park station to Totem Park. The mile-long trail loops through the site of a Tlingit Indian Fort and field where they fought against the Russian occupiers in 1804.
A collection of Haida and Tlingit totem poles are spread throughout the park, with convenient interpretive audio players available at the entrance. My oldest son was particularly fascinated with the poles, in no small part because he had just completed a school project in which he created his own. And that’s what makes the visit so interesting: the pole's designs and craftsmanship.
Each pole tells a unique story and identifies who lived there – depicted by symbols of eagles, crows, and salmon (all staples of this part of the world, as we would witness throughout our time in AK). We even learned that some poles have specific distinctions, like the "shame pole", which was planted in front of the residence of someone who committed certain discretions against the tribe. Meant to ridicule, I couldn't help but warn the kids that they'd have a similar fate if they didn't behave!