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Ketchikan, Alaska: The Greatest Place To Stand Among Totem Poles And Cedar Pole Culture

Updated on September 6, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).


Ketchikan, Alaska Fame

First City founded in Alaska by European-Americans

A Top 100 Small Arts Community in USA

An Alaskan economic and shipping Hub

Largest National Forest in the USA

A Best Place for Fishing

Most Bald Eagles in the world

Largest Collections of carved red cedar poles.

A "Great Place to Stand" for photographs

Downtown Ketchikan
Downtown Ketchikan | Source

Expansion In the Alaskan Panhandle

Ketchikan AK:
Ketchikan, AK 99901, USA

get directions

An earthquake shook Anchorage in the central range of the Alaskan Gulf in mid-June 2011, but Ketchikan, named after an important local creek, is on the Southeast side of the state, reaching down toward the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia.

The creek is part of the Historic Creek Street District downtown and is on a two-hour walking tour of the city. A bridge across the creek takes visitors past the dance hall and former brothels of the Alaskan lumber and fishing settlement era and offers entertaining stories from guides.

The Panhandle Is To the Southeast, Along British Columbia

Ketchikan AK:
Ketchikan, AK, USA

get directions

Haida Gwaii - Queen Charlotte Islands:
Haida Gwaii

get directions

Vancouver Island BC:
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

get directions

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inside Passage in British ColumbiaCruises are popular around the Alaskan Panhandle.
Inside Passage in British Columbia
Inside Passage in British Columbia | Source
Cruises are popular around the Alaskan Panhandle.
Cruises are popular around the Alaskan Panhandle. | Source

A part of the Alaskan Panhandle and the American part of the Inside Passage used by early European explorers and later shipping companies, Ketchikan is the southernmost city of sizable population in Alaska.

This city has been called the Salmon Capital of the World.

In addition to this distinction, Ketchikan's Totem Heritage Park was chosen by readers' votes in 2009 at as the 79th Greatest Place to Stand in America, to take pictures, particularly selfies.

American Portion Of the Panhandle's Inside Passage

The Alaskan Panhandle. This part of the Inside Passage encompasses at least 1,000 islands.
The Alaskan Panhandle. This part of the Inside Passage encompasses at least 1,000 islands. | Source

Indigenous Cedar Pole Cultures

Totem Heritage Center
Totem Heritage Center | Source
A carving in Ketchikan.
A carving in Ketchikan. | Source

Carved Cedar Pole Cultures

Ketchikan is home to two other carved pole collections/installations, including Saxman Village and Totem Bight State Park. Carved poles can also be found in Sitka and a few other spots in this sector of Alaska, altogether being fairly close to the Queen Charlottes and the rest of British Columbia in which poles carved from red cedar are prominent in history and current arts and culture.

Yellow cedar and other woods have been carved as well, but red cedar is the traditional favorite. The Indigenous North American Peoples - First Nations and and Native Americans that have led the pole carving tradition in this area have been the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian in America and BC, Kwakiutl in BC, and some other groups.

One of the most famous cedar pole master carvers in history, Mungo Martin, was Kwakiutl and his wife, a Tlingit -- he combined power animals, or "totems" as we call them, of both Kawakiutl and Tlingit cultures in some single poles. He also carved replicas of Haida poles in his special position with the University of Vancouver and its Department of Anthropology. Martin combined the crests or totems of four nations in a single pole for an installation in Victoria BC as well.

Ranking after the largest numbers of carved poles made from before 1700 to date in the Queen Charlottes, Vancouver Island, and other portions of British Columbia; Ketchikan and the arm of land it occupies has produced the next highest numbers of carved poles in North America. Some poles reside in Washington State and a few in Oregon. Most of the rest standing in the USA were commissioned from native and non-native carvers for art installations, campgrounds, museums, and amusement parks.

Cedar poles have been commissioned from British Columbia's Indigenous master carvers for nations as far away as the UK and other destinations. Indigenous poles of earlier histories than the Pacific Northwest, in the Old World, have been carved by Indigenous Peoples in Amur, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, Polynesia, and elsewhere.

Community House at Mud Bight Village: State and National Historic Site

The totem pole commissioned by the original owner or Community stands at the center front, with a door opening through which to walk. Painting on the front side is similar to Haida and Kwakiutl.
The totem pole commissioned by the original owner or Community stands at the center front, with a door opening through which to walk. Painting on the front side is similar to Haida and Kwakiutl. | Source

Totem Heritage Center

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge | Source

Totem Heritage Center

Tongass Historical Museum and Ketchikan Totem Heritage Center are approximately 2,000 feet from each another east-to-west in the central part of the city. The museum is lodged within the Ketchikan First Cities Public Library and expects to take over the entire property for a new, large museum complex after the library completes is building project at another site, likely in 2013.

Several sources call the collection of carved poles at the Totem Heritage Center the largest worldwide in a single spot. Some native cemeteries that include carved poles may, in fact, have a larger number - one perhaps in Alert Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Vancouver also has a large installation of carved poles. Overall, those in the Alaskan collection are older, 19th C. poles that were recovered from abandoned villages by the state and federal governments for preservation in the early part of the 20th C. Other poles, replicas, were carved by native peoples in the CCC under WPA programs of the Depression-Era Franklin D. Roosevelt presidential administration; a nice addition to the development of US national parks.

A number of guided tours are available to the three carved pole collections in Ketchikan and those at the Heritage Center and Saxman Village may be combined with wildlife tours featuring local native animals and plants. Bald Eagles are often sighted in the panhandle -- In Downtown Ketchikan near the library and Creek Street are both a Salmon Run and a native-run Eagle Center (American Bald Eagles and other raptors) where both aerial and water wildlife can be seen. Salmon run to spawn from June through September.

Indigenous Heritage Sites

Totem Heritage Park :
601 Deermount St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, USA

get directions

Tongass Historical Museum :
629 Dock St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, USA

get directions

Within the Ketchikan First Cities Public Library

Local Jobs and Business

Attractive Jobs In Healthcare, Technology and Tourism

TRAVEL NURSES and other travel healthcare professions are needed in the City of Ketchikan and its borough or county of Ketchikan Gateway, including 15,000 residents. Needed are licensed RNs and LPNS, Physical and Occupational Therapists, and others, even Physicians. The interesting thing about "traveling" is the extra perks and benefits:

  • Higher Pay than average.
  • Housing Allowance/mortgage payments for up to 12 months of service in a city.
  • Travel Reimbursement to the city of work, and many more offerings.

Cherish Your Inheritance - 2011
Cherish Your Inheritance - 2011 | Source

Tourism is a major contributor to the local economy in addition to the Healthcare Industry. When the new Tongass Historical Museum opened in 2013, publicity and events surrounding its official opening were akin to those when the Smithsonian Institution Museum of the American Indian opened in 2005, though on a smaller scale.

I think that a festival of Pacific Northwest and Alaskan cultures is becoming more popular in this part of Alaska, as well as neighboring British Columbia, complete with master carving demonstrations and other native arts, all of which will further increase interest in the Indigenous Peoples of this area and their businesses.

All this will expand the usual tourist enterprises like hotels, tours, dining places, retail sales and other cultural events. Native cultures in the Pacific Northwest are receiving not only increased attention, but also increased support in their business pursuits, along with more visitors.

Top Hiring Companies

  1. PeaceHealth
  2. Safeway - Supermarkets
  3. RNTravelWeb & - Travel Healthcare
  4. Trident Seafoods Corporation
  5. THOR
  6. AT&T Retail
  7. American Mobile Healthcare
  8. NursesRx
  9. trustaff
  10. Supplemental Health Care
  11. Medical Express
  12. Cirrus Medical Staffing
  13. Wells Fargo

Top 10 High Demand Jobs

  1. Operating Room Nurses - RNs
  2. AT&T Full Time Retail Sales Consultant
  3. Full Time Retail Sales Consultant
  4. Nurse Manager - Registered Nurse/RN
  5. ID Check - Mystery Shopping
  6. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)
  7. Relief Nurses - RNs
  8. Quality Assurance Technicians
  9. Speech Therapists and Assistants
  10. Aircraft Dispatchers
  11. Others: Accountants, Child Care Staff, Tellers, Security Officers

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS


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    Post Comment

    • susannah42 profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for a really good hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Patty, for giving me so much pleasure in reading all this. It was a feast.

    • almasi profile image


      7 years ago

      A very well researched and well written informative hub. Thanks.

    • visionandfocus profile image


      7 years ago from North York, Canada

      We have a few of those totem poles in Vancouver too, I guess it's not that far away. Interesting to note the high demand for healthcare professionals, although I hadn't known about the 'travel' aspect, very interesting. Thanks for a great write-up! Voted up!

    • Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

      Sylvia Van Peebles 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      I want out of California. Maybe I should consider Alaska! Interesting and informative hub!

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      What a fabulous drive along that gulf/bay area.

      Some of those jobs pay amazingly well!


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