A Tale of Two Totems

With an immersive sojourn at Haida Gwaii ended, Jupiter points her bow northward to Alaska.

Two long passages are broken by a night’s rest at Brundige Inlet, Canada’s last anchorage before the US Border, deep in the crooked little heart of Dundas Island. Here the crew is assailed by hordes of black flies savaging for blood and leaving welts the size of grapeshot. We enjoy the quiet evening, slapping, scratching, and applying cortisone creams.

Into Alaska

The US point of entry northbound is Ketchikan, 50 miles north of the border. Clearing Customs and Border Protection is straightforward for pre-registered vessels using the CBPRoam App.

Arrival at Alaska’s First City is different from arrival at other ports. Several massive cruise ships blockade the waterfront daily, disgorging thousands of passengers into town. A turbulence of tourists and tours, fishing and fish processing, shipping and trade by air and sea contrasts with previously experienced stillness.

Jupiter spends three days and a Fourth of July provisioning, refueling and enjoying the company of the merry multitudes.

Determined to find the smallest and quietest village within a day’s passage, Jupiter departs for Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island where moorage is available.


The Organized Village of Kasaan is one of the historic seats of Haida, along with Haida Gwaii, and Hydaburg on Prince of Wales. We continue the canvas of Haida culture.

The Haida and neighboring Tlingit bands historically occupied portions of what is now Southeastern Alaska, and a modern group migrated here in the 18th Century. Kasaan, home to 30 residents, means “pretty town.”

Jupiter ties up on the outer float of the little harbor. The crew finds the Tribal Offices, and within engaging people curious about our curiosity and our recent voyage from Haida Gwaii. Remarkably, we are solemnly asked if we are ourselves Haida.

An interpretation is offered of the area’s impressive collection of totem poles and an intact original Long House belonging to Chief Son-I-Hat, built in 1880 and documented in the 1930’s. Mike “I Am the Voice” Jones, our impassioned guide, Tribal President, genealogist, and historian of Old and New Kasaan is related to everyone. He speaks eloquently for his people and is generous with his time and insight.


The massive Yáadaas Clan pole was recently returned to Kasaan after more than 100 years’ absence. Built in 1880 to front a Chief’s house, it was taken in 1906 to California by Chief Son-I-Hat for an Indian Crafts exhibition. In 1951 it was found in a lumber yard destined for a pulp mill.

Rescued, it was transported to a new home, standing at the entry to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for fifty years. Subsequently, when strengthened with steel, it became a lightning rod and was taken down in 2006. The Arts Center contacted Kasaan to see if the pole might be repatriated.

GASA’AAN XAADAS GYA’AANG (Kasaan Haida Totem Pole)

This contemporary pole was carved in the Kasaan carving shed by two lead and four apprentice artisans in celebration of the restoration of the Chief’s long house, known as The Whale House. It was erected in 2018 to evoke the past, present and future of the Village of Kasaan.

The pole is read from bottom to top:

Starting at the bottom is Chief Son-I-Hat’s home. Moving up, smoke from the smoke-hole rises over the belly of a woman pregnant with past lessons and knowledge. On her abdomen is a petroglyph signifying the time the people of Kasaan have lived here.

Above the woman is a wise and strong figure representing all aspects of the past.

The middle of the pole symbolizes the present with a cockle clam telling the importance of natural resources to human life. Above rests a crab to value and protect the area’s resources. The crab sits on a copper shield held by a human embracing the environment.

Next, the human figure with large ears manifests the intent of the people to listen to all lessons of the past to enable a promising future.

The top of the pole symbolizes the future shown as a large plain belly that speaks of many things yet to be determined. The belly has large skin folds indicating a desire for ample room in times to come.

Salmon eggs surround a baby’s face, and at the highest point is a man and a woman with two children sitting in the ears of the future.

Albacore Tuna Noodle Bowl

Jupiter’s cook acquires a rose-cream loin of albacore tuna, line-caught on the west coast of Haida Gwaii and grilled on the flybridge.

Strip a corn cob of its kernels, toast in a skillet until brown. Add a splash of water and scrape the pan until the sweet fond lacquers the kernels. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

In a small saucepan conjure a quick pickling solution by dissolving a palm full of coconut sugar and a thumble of salt in equal parts water and cider vinegar. Dice assorted vegetables and sliver red onion. Pour the warm solution over and let steep off the heat.

Peel, julienne and lightly salt cucumber and allow to rest.

Soften a generous piece of dried seaweed in simmering water until pliable. Remove the algae from the pot with tongs, and when cool enough to handle, gently roll and chiffonade into noodle-like strands.

Pour the boiling seaweed water over dried rice noodles in a bowl and soak until supple. Drain well and toss gently with the seaweed.

In a small blender whizz up a velvety sauce for the noodles from canola oil, a spoonful of toasted sesame seed, some chili-garlic oil, a nubbin of sweet miso, a glug of rice vinegar, and splishes of mirin and soy sauce. Spill it over the noodles and toss by gentle hand to coat.

Plate the dressed noodles and top with toasted corn. Flake cooked Albacore over noodles and gird with cucumber. Scatter with pickled vegetables and strew with furikake.

“We are the original totem pole people. We are the only culture in the entire world to have monumental sculpture in front of every single house.”

Mike Jones ~ Tribal Chief


  1. Dana Starr says:

    The Tuna Noodle Bowls look sumptuous!
    And the totem pole historical tour is again so interesting. You guys are awesome. Wishing you welcome seas and safe travels!
    Ketchikan was a stop on our Alaskan Cruise years ago. Neat enjoyable visit there.

    • Years ago they probably only had one or two cruise ships a day. Still, great that so many people are getting to experience Alaska. Love having you along, and all your great feedback!

      • Dana Starr says:

        My Pleasure! I’m envious of your lifestyle and seafaring adventures! I don’t miss any of your Blog Posts. 😎

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