Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ketchikan, Alaska

 Ketchikan would be our last port of call for our Alaskan cruise. Ketchikan is known for two things, salmon and totem poles. Since we had already experienced a salmon bake during this vacation we chose to experience a little more culture while in town. That meant we were hopping onto a bus headed for Saxman Totem Village.
  Ketchikan has more totem poles than any other place in the world. They are scattered throughout town and each one stands for something. Saxman Totem Village has the greatest concentration of poles with twenty five. 
  We were greeted by two young men from the local Tlingit tribe. They spoke a little about their traditions and the history of their people before we were taken to the Clan House.
The Clan House
 Inside the Clan House we got to see the local Native American's perform a few dances. These are traditional song and dance that have been practiced for generations. Each dance meant something different but the last dance represented welcoming or friendship if you will. For this dance they invited all who were interested to come up and dance with them. Much like the shy group that we had at Liarsville most people sat silent and avoided eye contact when they asked for volunteers. Normally I would have been one of those people but for some unknown reason I said, What the heck. It's not everyday you get to experience something like this and I know it will be a long time before I end up this way again. In total there ended up being four of us that danced and lucky for us the moves were simple.
  This was an experience that I found to be quite fun. I got to dress up in a fancy robe (I represented the Raven Clan) and got to let loose for a few minutes. To the Tlingit these dances and the people they welcome each day is special. It is their way of passing on the history of their ancestors and it gives them the opportunity to live their traditions in a modern, technology driven world. I would urge everyone that visit Ketchikan to make sure to stop by the Saxman village. You might even get some good, embarrassing video of your family members.
  Once the dance ended we were taken out to totem poles. Our knowledgeable but driver told us the stories of each of the poles and the one thing that she mentioned that surprised me was that none of these poles are the originals. Eventually these poles succumb to the elements and fall over and get damaged. When that happens the totem poles are re-carved and placed back where its predecessor stood. 
  Bonus activity! We were taken to a small, wooden shack just below the Clan House to see where the poles are carved. We were lucky during our visit because the "Master Carver" was in town. So who is the master carver? He's pretty much the best there is at what he does. With over fifty years of carving totem poles under his belt, there isn't another person in the village that can match his talent. But they are learning. He is passing on his knowledge to the few young men of the village talented enough to carve the poles.
  Carving poles is how this man makes his living. Anyone can commission a pole but beware, it's going to take a while and it's going to cost a lot. Hey, greatness isn't cheap.
 With the totem village experience behind us we had some time to wander town. We breezed past the buildings of the old "red light district" which were very well preserved but now house shops and museums. Not that I'm complaining. Don't get the wrong idea. We walked past my favorite attraction in town, the lumberjack show where the hoots of the patrons cheering on their team spilled over into the streets. And of course we perused the shops that stood everywhere you looked. Unfortunately rain had been falling since our arrival and by the afternoon we had had enough. We headed back to the ship and waited for our departure time.
  Tomorrow we would float through the inside passage toward our final destination of Vancouver, Canada. Our exploration of Alaska had come to an end and it was time to head home. I know that I'll return one day but I'm hoping to do it by land rather than by sea.    Come back on Friday to hear how we ended our trip and we'll share a few tips for when you plan your own Alaskan cruise. See you then.   

Here is a peek at some of the fun we had. 



Brandan

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