The rich heritage of native Alaskans is apparent in carved artifacts, beadwork, and artwork. One of the items seen throughout Ketchikan is the totem pole; each of these wooden poles, carved with symbols representing spirits, people, animals, birds, and reptiles, has a specific meaning.
Ketchikan maintains the largest assortment of totem poles in the area, with three collections located at the Totem Heritage Center, Totem Bight State Park, and Saxman Totem Park listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ketchikan totem tours provide an opportunity to see the works of art collected from deserted Haida or Tlingit Indian villages. The Totem Heritage Center has 33 original totems and provides a fifteen-minute guided tour during the summer.
Saxman Totem Park features 28 carved totems, a cultural hall, a tribal house and a carving center. The totems were originally located in nearby Indian villages and moved to Saxman for restoration. The park is open year-round with guided tours in the summer.
Totem Bight Park has a total of fifteen totems removed from deserted villages, moved to the park, and duplicated using by native carvers using cedar poles and handmade tools. The natural paint colors originally used were recreated using modern paint selections to ensure the poles would look as close to the original colors as possible.
Of the three Ketchikan totem tours, the Totem Bight guided tour is the most varied, as it also includes an opportunity to see dancers perform inside the Beaver Clan House and carving demonstrations by native artists. For travelers who want to include history in their shore excursions, totem tours in Ketchikan are an excellent fit.