A small sawmill was built, and a school and houses were constructed. Fishing and cutting lumber for the growing towns of Saxman and Ketchikan were the economic mainstays of the new village and of course now tourism is a very large business.
The meanings of the designs on totem poles are as varied as the cultures that make them. The poles may recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. They also commemorate historic persons or represent shamanic powers, though the totem poles were never objects of worship. Some poles were even used as objects of public ridicule for village offenders.
The Beaver Clan House is where you will see the traditional clan dances. There is a rich tradition of oratory and the songs and dances performed are property of the clan.
The clans are a matrilineal system. Children are born to the mother's clan and gain their status within her family, including originally, the traditional hereditary leadership positions. In Tlingit culture a heavy emphasis is placed upon family and kinship.
The blankets became a tradition after they were originally acquired from the traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company during the mid-19th century. The trade blankets were typically dark blue and decorated with buttons made from abalone or dentalium shells. The central crest typically portrays a symbol of the wearer's family heritage. Contemporary button blankets are also made in other colors such as bright red.
The traditional songs and dances welcomed us to the village and the performers ranged from tiny children to respected elders. The vibrantly painted interior with its two large totems along with the chants and rhythms drew us into what felt like a very spiritual experience.
Saxman Native Village is very interesting to visit and our young niece really enjoyed learning about the history and culture of the Southeastern Alaskan native peoples.