SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Chief Johnson Pole to Be Cleaned & Repaired


September 25, 2017
Monday AM

Chief Johnson's Home & Totem
Photo Date: 1913
The original Chief Johnson totem pole was carved in 1901.
Collection: Rev. S. Hall Young Album
Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - The replica Chief Johnson totem pole in downtown Ketchikan is in need of cleaning and repairs, including the restoration of Raven’s beak that broke away from the pole in 2016.  While the City does not own the totem pole, with permission from the Tongass Tribe, Ketchikan Museums has aided in its care and maintenance as an act of stewardship of Ketchikan’s history. 

The City of Ketchikan will be proceeding with the Chief Johnson totem pole repair project on Tuesday, September 26th.  Contractor Marvin Hill of Wildcatters, LLC will be taking down the totem pole and transporting it to the old fire hall on Main Street in conjunction with the City Streets Division.  Tommy Joseph has been contracted to do the cleaning and repairs.  Joseph, a Totem Heritage Center instructor originally from Ketchikan, has over 20 years of experience with totem pole restoration.

Weather dependent, the removal and transport will occur Tuesday, September 26th.  If the crane is unable to safely operate due to wind, the removal will be delay until September 27th or into the first week of October.  The south half of the Centennial Building parking lot will be closed while the crane is in operation.  The safety of the totem pole, the public and the personnel involved are our utmost concern.

Joseph will conduct a condition assessment, clean the entire totem pole and repair figures as their condition warrants.  He will also treat the totem pole to help prevent further deterioration and take additional preservation measures.  Joseph projects that this process will take 6 weeks.  According to Ketchikan Museum, the plan is to return the totem pole to its current downtown location across from the Federal Building.

The original Chief Johnson totem pole was carved in 1901 and raise at a potlatch attended by 500 people.  The original pole was restored by Native carvers enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1939-1941.

The original pole was removed in 1981 and is stored at the Totem Heritage Center. Israel Shotridge was commissioned to carve a reproduction of the pole in 1989. The replica pole was removed in 2001 for repairs, treatment of an insect infestation, and for repainting and returned to its location in downtown Ketchikan in June 2002. 

The Chief Johnson totem has since become one of the most photographed totems in the world.



Reporting and Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews




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