In Saxman, Alaska, stands a totem pole known as the William Seward Shame Pole. William Seward was the US Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867. Two years later, after retiring from government service, Seward visited Tongass Island in Alaska and was honored with a potlatch — a gift-giving ceremony. The Tlingit chief also raised a totem pole with Seward’s likeness on top. Unfortunately, Seward did not understand the protocol of the Tlingit potlatch, which would require him to host an equivalent potlatch. After Seward’s visit, when it became obvious that he would not reciprocate with gifts, the chief had the ears and nose of Seward’s image painted red as a sign of shame.
A replica of the original Tongass Island shame pole was carved in the 1930s and placed in Saxman, a small city near Ketchikan. (The Saxman Village Totem Park contains replicas of 25 original totem poles.) The photo below shows the William Seward Shame Totem Pole as we saw it in 2012. This totem pole deteriorated until 2014, when it was taken down. Its replacement, considered even more lifelike than the second pole, was erected on April 29, 2017.
William Seward Shame Totem Pole
This photo was taken in Saxman, Alaska, on May 6, 2012. Specs are:
This is a photo of part of the Gold Rush Cemetery in Skagway, Alaska. This cemetery is the oldest one in Skagway and contains infamous characters as well as ordinary residents. A list of those buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery can be downloaded from this National Park Service website, which provides age and cause of death, along with other personal information. In this photo, Harley Baker on the right was 3 1/2 years old when he died of meningitis on February 28, 1898. James Gallegher in front died on June 25, 1900, age unknown, of pleural pneumonia.
Possibly the most infamous occupant here is Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, a con man whose ambitions led him to Skagway around 1897. Unsuccessfully confronting the town’s vigilante committee on July 8, 1898, he was shot dead by Frank Reid. In the exchange, Reid was also fatally wounded.
Here lies Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II, the temporary villain of this story, several yards outside the Gold Rush Cemetery.
Frank Reid was one of four guards present on Juneau Wharf where the vigilante committee was meeting. The head of the Canadian Mounties later stated that it was another guard who killed Soapy, but it seemed more prudent at the time to give credit to Frank Reid as the hero of the affair.
Here lies Frank H. Reid, the temporary hero.
We are all temporary.
These photos were taken on May 4, 2012 with a Canon PowerShot SX40 HS camera.
In May, 2012, we took a cruise on the Carnival Spirit, the “Inside Passage with Glacier Bay” seven-day Alaska cruise, departing from Vancouver and returning to Seattle. It was our first time in Canada and first time in Alaska. While the ship was docked in Skagway, we took a round trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, climbing 2885 in altitude to the international border with Canada at White Pass.
At one point while on the train, we looked out our car’s window to see our ship in the Port of Skagway far below.