Monday, August 17, 2009

Northwest Totem Story


One of the things I like best about traveling is that you learn so much. On our latest trip to Canada, we learned something new about something old.

Most of you know that my wife grew up in San Francisco, and that her parents owned a cafe and liquor store downtown. It was mom and pop store, with Pat's mom Erma often serving the customers. One of the regular customers for whom Erma would swap food for daily chores was a man named Charlie Brown. Charlie also gave Erma a present that he had carved, and wrote a four-page narrative describing what he had made.

Many years ago, Erma gave the carving to Pat and I. I read the narrative, and it detailed a story which facinated me. Here is a photo of the carving, and the text of his narrative.

"The Oldest Story known the Indian Nation
This totem pole is known as the Sun and Raven Pole. In the dark ages, no one knew there was such a thing as Sun. All the Mystical Raven knew was light, called Day light, there is no possible way of carving light of day, When he did ascent to the sky, he did see the Sun, they did know there was sky. The round about his head is the Sun he did see. If also means sky, also means light of day. In order to understand the carving, it is necessary to interpret all the figure4s you see on the pole. The figures represent people as nations of people, and not the bird or animal itself nor the frog. Symbol of People, not only this carving but all totem. No different than the white man's lodge, only he wears his on his coat. His is adopted, our symbol on the totem pole is something that really happened to a man or a tribal people, or the whole clan, thereby a clan is made. Could be a grizzly bear, eagle, or other bird or fish or animal, it is something that really happened, and not adopted by Roberts Rules of order. So for all totem poles, all the figures we see on white man's coat of arms of moose, elk, eagle and others means the same people not the birds or animals itself.

Unknown to thousands the true meaning. Each figure has a story to tell. Each figure of man means nations of people, Raven figure means Raven Nation, tribe, clan. So as eagle, grizzly bear, killer whale, and such and many more. In the dark age, it seemed our world did not revolve at all. It was as dead as the moon. Raven was then known as the Mystical Raven. He had unknown powers, can change himself to animal, fish, or bird. But was a human or could be animal of the land - a man of Raven tribe, thus the totem pole.

He promised his people there would be light of day. In time to come, this Promise stood for generations and generations. Thus, the Seattle totem pole in Pioneer Square which I myself recarved the original. It was burned badly, and was sent to me in Alaska. I carved to the inch the Seattle Pole represent his Promise full-filled. At the very bottom, the Mystical Raven, and at the very top a Raven holding a box called the light of day box. No one on Earth could carve dy light, so the artist use light in a form of a box, which means day light.

So goes with this Pole thousands and thousands of years ago, when there was no tress, this same story was painted in caves on cliffs. Later, it was on moose hide. The three man figures are the three Nations carved on this Pole, carving of trees is not really too old. But the story is very, very old. Dates back to the dark ages, age unknown, even the whites story mentions it in history as the dark ages only no date. The three Nations, the Saltwater People, the middle Nation, and the upper Nation. The upper Nation stayed inland and are still there. I myself have met some, and three Nations are carved on his breast on this tree.

After painting on cliffs or caves, burned on hide, and carved, the story cannot be changed on this tree or another tree or totwm pole. Neither can you add on or take away any part of the story. Some use copper shield.

I, Charles W. Brown, French Indian of Alaska, is the last that can tell this story unknown to younger generation, and many others 50 in all to have carved or recarved.

I did research for University of Washington, and the Anthropoligist then at the head was Doctor Viola Garfield. At the time of my research, there were not many old people alive then, so my research was limited. The Mystical Raven ascended to the sky and came back with hope for all nations, there will be light - there is light.

The Proof of this Promise stands in Seattle Pioneer Square. It is called the light of day totem Pole, astronaut of millions of years ago, forerunner of todays astronaut, ages not known. The sun is the Raven on top, it really means Sky or the Sun he saw. The three men figures are the three nations that witness the event of that time. The head or face at the back end of the Raven between wings is the man or the Mystical Raven are one that brought hope to the Nations.

Now, the Mystical Raven and the frog. I'll go the Raven first. There ws no man living at the time that can carve water, sea, or lake water or even to this day. So the artist of the time used fish, bird, or animals or of many kinds. In this case, the frog was used as such to represent sea, water, or lake water. It's impossible to carve water (itself can you). The Mystical Raven descended to the deep of the Sea (This was after his Promise was full-filled that is the light of day). The three salmon on each side of his wings mean food for his people,or he may have descended to the Bottom of the Sea to see if there was a hole in the Bottom of the Ocean. Because the Sea was fast giving out, where there was no land , now land appears. Islands were being born, the ocean was going somewhere, the world was now revolving as it is this day. Clam shell are found many miles inland and high. I, Charles W.Brown, have seen clam shells many miles back where once the Bottom of the Ocean. Builders unearth shells many miles inland. It is any bodies guess as to age, the wings has some meaning. Aslo, the Oblong Circle at the base of the wing means the Power of flight. All the rest is my own idea. If the totem is large enough, small faces are carved on the ears (Sense of hearing) In the eyes, senses of sight. Hand sense of touch on feet - Power of motivation. On the nose, sense of smell. So on one large totem pole, the seven senses are ascentuated, the artist own idea of carving the totem pole.

Wood Used
The carving is Alaska Yellow Cedar, and wings are pine. The base Redwood of California. I do hope you understand some or all. Please condense this story if you wish. You will be the only woman in the State of California to hold in your hand what took place thousands of years ago carved. Story by Charles W. Brown."

Years later, I stumbled across a book entitled, "The Wolf and the Raven, Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska" by Viola Garfield and Linn A. Forest, published by the University of Washington Press in 1948. In the preface, Viola writes:

"For many years, the United States Forest Service recognized the necessity of collecting and restoring the totem poles to be found throughout southeastern Alaska if any evidence of this unique art was to be preserved. Not until the fall of 1938, however, were funds available so that work of this nature could be undertaken by the employment in the Civilan Conservation Corps of skilled native carvers.

The poles in Saxman Totem Park, three miles from Ketchikan, were restored by Tlingit natives, many of whom are descendants of the original owners. This group of poles includes carvings from Cape Fox Village, Tongass Village, Village Island, and Pennock Island. Chief Johnson's totem pole in Ketchikan was also restored by carvers at the Saxman workshop. Two new poles symbolic of old Tlingit legends were designed and carved for the totem village at Mud Bight, a few miles north of Ketchikan. A model village wasplanned for the latter site, but the war prevented completion of the project. The poles in the Klawak Totem Park were brought from the deserted town of Tuxekan and vicinity. Some of the men who worked on the restoration project were born in the old town, and all had ancestors who lived there.

Totem-pole carvings cannot be appreciated or understood without a knowledge of the legends and histories back of them. The Regional Forestor of Alaska, B. Frank Heintzleman, was therefore particularly anxious to collect such information. Linn A. Forest, the Regional Architect, was placed in charge of the totem pole restoration project. To him and other Forest Service members were entrusted the selection and removal of the old carvings, the arrangement and erection in new parks, and the securing of the totem stories and photographs. Charles Brown, head carver for the Saxman workshop, in which many of the carvings were restored, also recorded many of the legends and consulted with many of his tribesmen when his own memory or knowledge failed him."

The book contains a chapter on the Saxman Totem Park.
"Saxman, three miles south of Ketchikan,on Tongass Narrows, was chosen as the site for the spectacular collection of Tlingit carvings from abandoned towns and cemeteries of Tongass, Cat, Village, and Pennock Islands and Cape Fox Village. Many of the of the inhabitants of the old towns and their decendants live at Saxman, and the park is in the center of the townsite. The park was laid out with an approaching driveway bordered with poles and a square area walled with hand-adzed logs ornamented with frog heads. Two stairways lead to the square, one flanked by two massive Raven figures and the other by Bear figures. These symbolize the two phratries of the Tlingit. The first pole completed for the project was the Sun and Raven carving, located at the entrance to the park.

The (original) Sun and Raven pole was carved in the fall of 1902, and placed in the cemetery on the north point of Pennock Island facing Ketchikan. It was made by a famous Tlingit carver, Kahctan, more widely known as Nawiski, for a woman of the Starfish House of the Raven phratry, as a memorial to her two sons. It was repaired and set up in its present location April 11, 1939, as the first pole in Saxman Totem Park."

On our recent trip to British Columbia, we revisited both the Uiversity of British Columbia's Anthropology Museum in Vancouver, and the Royal Museum in Victoria. Both have extensive totem collections. On this trip, we discovered that a new online database is being established to allow sharing on information between public and private collections on northwest art (Reciprocal Resource Network Project, Reciprocal Resource Network Pilot Project). At the Royal Museum, we learned that Charles Brown's nephew, Israel Shotridge, has been restoring and producing new versions of his uncle's totems. In addition, he has built an impressive collection of original Tlingit art (Shotridge Studios)

We have established an online collection in the Reciprocal Resource Network, and are beginning the task of uploading photographs and descriptions of our art, including the Sun and Raven Pole Model. We have also contacted Israel Shotridge to let him know about the piece, and to see what more we can learn together about his uncle.

We are proud to have been a small part of the life of this incredible man, and to possess such a powerful symbol of the Tlingit Nation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, Santa Rosa


After a great stay at Lassen National Park on Thursday, we headed home on Friday. Exhausted, we made the mistake of leaving the electrical umbilical cord dangling and scraped it along the first mile. Disconnecting it after the Touareg shouted the problem, we drove home without tail and signal lights, and a brake control system in the trailer.

Lassen National Park's roads, both the main paved roads, and the many driveable dirt and gravel roads, take you to views that dazzle and humble. It's really easy to be a photographer up there because the sights jump out so clearly.

To see the remaining photos we took on Thursday, click on:
Thurs Aug 14th Photos

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday, August 10, Lakeview, Oregon


I added "Oregon" to the title of this post because most of you have probably never heard of Lakeview, Oregon. It's what a lot of cities could have called themselves, most could find a lake within someone's view. I doubt anyone in Lakeview can see a lake from their house. It's flat, so it's hard to see anywhere. And the two biggest lakes in the area are dry and quite a ways away. Just north of here is a huge lake with the highest fault scarp in the U.S. next to it. They should call it Nearlake. Oh well.

What's a fault scarp, you ask? It's when an earthquake lifts a large block of the earth long ago (when it was just molten rock around here) 2500 feet upward and creates a really dramatic cliff made of lava (500 feet thick on the top). Just perfect for hang-gliding, or base-jumping, or any number of new flying sports where you need a high perch with a dry lake at the bottom.

Since it was only 129 miles to our next RV park, we decided to read and walk and look for birds around the parksite in the afternoon. Pat was happy to get a shot of an oriole, and not happy to miss a shot of a blue bird. I was happy she got a shot of a rough-legged hawk, and even one with me and him in the same shot. We also saw some old juniper trees with weathered and twisted trunks.

Tomorrow, we head southwest to Redding,and then Hwy 299 to the coast.

To see the remaining photos we took today, click on:

Aug 11th

Monday, August 10th, Burns


Today was a sprint day, beginning at 8:30am and ending at 4pm. We did spend an hour at the Tamastslikt Cultural Center, one of the best-designed native arts facilities in the Northwest. The only native american museum on the Oregon Trail, it is a huge wooden structure, sitting at the far end of the property shared with a casino, golf course, and rv park by a confederation of three tribes (Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla). Though photos were not allowed inside, I would think it difficult to capture in images the displays and multi-media approaches the tribes utilize to tell their stories. Well worth a visit, this museum seems to have afforded the very best in design and content.

Arriving at Burns, we got lost trying to find a 187,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge south of town. The signage could be better, but I must admit we missed a key sign in the entrance to the town. An hour of detour, we finally arrived at Narrows, a ghost town straddling two huge (now dry) lakes which are flooded in April to receive over a million birds in the flyway up the west coast of the U.S.

Finishing the day with a pizza dinner in town, we're now watching the sunset, and planning a short drive tomorrow to Lakeview (where the chamber of commerce assures us there actually is a lake).

Sorry, no additional photos today.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday, August 9th, Pendleton


Today, we got up early and drove most of the day to Pendleton, Oregon. The cloudy weather of south central Washington gave way in the White Pass to the clear desert air of eastern Washington. We followed the Natches River. It heads east from Mt Olympus, then south, and back west along the Columbia River to the Pacific. It sure did feel strange to be watching it flow eastward for the first 100 miles. I don't know of many west of the Rockies which do that.

We decided that Pendleton was far enough, found an RV park off the freeway, and took a tour of the town. This is the home of Pendleton Wollen Mills, 100-year old maker of native american blankets and plaid shirts/skirts for young boomers and GEN-Xrs. We bought one (a blanket), and then drove to the local casino in search of a native arts museum being funded by it. Arriving just before closing time, we'll be back tomorrow morning for a tour.

To see the few remaining photos we took today, click on:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday, Aug 8th, Rangle


We slept long and well last night (too many latenight episodes of Frazier), and didn't get on the road until 11:30am. We only had about 100 miles to get to Rangle, Washington. It's a very small town (about a block long) in a valley between Mt Ranier and Mt St. Helens. We set up Matilda, and took a ride up a road to Mt St Helens that was new to us. It comes south to a point (Windy Ridge) about ten miles east of the summit, just above Spirit Lake. We walked the remaining mile up to a facing hill just across from the summit. Unfortunately, there were clouds all around the missing summit, but it didn't matter to us because we came to see the re-growth on the surrounding hillsides.

The first time we came here, it was about a year after the blast. Absolute devastation for as far as you could see. Now, the line of impact can be seen in the changes to the forest as you drive into the blast zone. First, tall dead trees stand amidst their younger replacements, their top branches parched. At the edge of the zone, hillsides of a few more entirely bleached trees still stand among new young trees. Closer, the new trees become smaller, and the big ones are laid out in rows swept back by the blast. Finally, there are no trees, only shrubs and flowers.

But it's drop dead beautiful. The power of nature is on display, and you have to agree that it's gorgeous.

The problem with a small town in a mountainous area is the weakness of their internet connections. We'll try to put some photos into this blog, but you may just have to see all of them in Picasa.

For a look at the remaining photos we took today, click on:
Aug 8th

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday, August 7th, Westport


We drove 105 miles down the Washington coast to Westport, a sportfishing town best known for its cannery and lighthouse. We toured town without taking pictures, and then Pat made an appointment to get a haircut. I decided to walk around our RV Park taking photos of the different trailers and motorhomes, and of RV life.

Tomorrow, we're headed east to Randle, located between Mt Ranier and Mt St. Helens. Don't know if we'll have wifi, but I'll try to get some shots of the mountains. Our itinerary after that is to head south on U.S. 395 through Washington and Oregon, then either Hwy 49 through Sacramento or head for the coast at Crescent City and down Hwy 1. We'll decide in a few days.

To see the remaining photos taken today, click on:
August 7th

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday, August 6th, Daytripping from Forks


We visited the Hoh Rain Forest on the slopes of Mt Olympus, and had lunch at a small resort on a southwestern beach. Pat and I both took a lot of photos, and we hope you're not overwhelmed by the moss-covered trees and gnarly-limbs. It's really beautiful here.

To see the rest of the many photos taken today, click on:
August 6th