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Alaska Herpetological Society

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Kiks.adi Totem

The Kiks.adi (Kiksett) Totem is today located in the Kiks.adi Totem Park in downtown Wrangell, AK. The significance of this totem and its crests is included here and borrowed from:

The Kiks.adi people derived their name from Kiks Bay where they first stopped in their migrations north from the mouth of the Nass River. The pole is surmounted with a face, which represents a mountain. It is here noticed eyes and faces are very liberally sprinkled over works of art of the north coast Pacific Indians. Their use is to show that some special intelligence or spiritual power was lodged there. This mountain was the camping place on the Stikine River where the legends of the tribe were supposed to take place.

Below Is the frog, the emblem of the tribe. One of the chiefs did some mischief to the frog. In consequence, he appears to have fallen into a trance. When he came out of his trance, he said that he had been in the underworld and had been taught by the frogs to treat them better because they were brothers. Below is the old Raven, the Creator, talking to the young Raven that made man. The lowest figure of all is the Kilisnoo beaver. The father belonged to the beaver family and the mother belonged in the frog family.

The Kilisnoo Beaver story is also included in Corser (2010) and is borrowed below:

 A great chief kept a very intelligent beaver as a pet. He paid so much attention to it that the rest of the tribe became very jealous of it and they teased him most unmercifully. The beaver appealed to the chief for protection but he refused to grant it. This enraged the beaver who went out into the pool of water and began to dig under the village. While he as doing this he was a giant, but outside he was just a beaver.

One day he went into the woods and made a salmon spear. The beaver is usually represented on totem poles as having this spear in his hand, and with the spear showing the mark of his teeth where he had been gnawing. The beaver took the spear and hid it in the hollow of a tree standing nearby. Some hunters shortly afterwards discovered the shaving made by the beaver as he gnawed away on the salmon spear and traced them to the hollow tree, and there of course, they discovered the spear.

The spear was in such an unusual place that the hunters judged that there was something uncanny about it, and they brought it to the house of the chief. The people were much excited about the finding of the spear and they all thronged to the chiefs house, curious to find out about it. The chief in turn asked each of his tribe’s men about the spear, if he had made it, and one after another replied that he had not.

The beaver kept saying “I made it” and at this all the tribesmen began to hiss and laugh. The chief even lost his patience and chided the beaver for saying such a foolish thing and said to the beaver “You lie when you say you made that spear.”

At this the beaver said “I will prove to you that I am strong enough to handle it.” And then he took the spear and thrust it at the chief. It entered his breast and killed him. Then quickly the beaver thrust it at others who were trying to prevent his escape and killed them and rushed out into the pool where he was accustomed to live and went into the chambers that he had made under the village and pulled out the part of the foundation that was still left and the village fell. As a consequence, the survivors took the beaver as their totem.

This story illustrates what made a family aristocratic was not the wealth of the family, or any special power it might exercise in war. It was whether anything uncanny or mysterious happened to it. Had some mysterious power taken part in its history? If so, the family was aristocratic and had a right to the use of a totem.

Kicksetti [Kiks.adi] and Kadashan Totems in front of Sun House, ca. 1930-1950.

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