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Visiting Front Street, Ketchikan, Alaska: A Carved Eagle by Nathan Jackson Recalling the Tlingit Language City Name

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State flag of Alaska

State flag of Alaska

Carved by Nathan Jackson

In the Tlingit language of Alaska, 'Kitschk-hin' means 'Thundering wings of an eagle' (1). The Tlingit language has five, mutually intelligible dialects, and is spoken in Southeastern Alaska and in small areas of neighbouring Canada (see also, map, below).

From this Tlingit source, the name of the City of Ketchikan is derived. Thus, the name of the City carries a very strong resonance with its Native Alaskan and natural environment.

In Downtown Ketchikan, at Front Street, close to Knob Tunnel, there is a very prominent, carved eagle in distinctive style. The work of Nathan Jackson (2), although the eagle is indeed also a general American symbol, here it particularly reflects Tlingit Native Alaskan style. The carver himself is associated with the Dewitt Carving Center, and he and other carvers draw strong influences from the natural environment of Alaska (3).

From time to time such works of art are repainted, and such a process is indeed undergoing in the photo, above, of the carved eagle on display at Front Street. (The photo gives a strong idea of the fact that flat land is at a premium in Downtown Ketchikan; and thus the prominence of the eagle carving is also somewhat underlined.)

Nathan Jackson's carved eagle is centrally located, not far from where ships dock; thus it is a sight which soon becomes familiar to many visitors. It is also close to Ketchikan's City Hall along Front Street, and the carving can also be one of the first, prominent objects which people emerging from the City Hall may see.

April 19, 2021

Notes

(1) See also: https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/ketchikan-alaska-is-tlingit-country-land-many-welcomes

(2) Other members of the Jackson family are also known for their Native Alaskan-style carvings.

(3) When I visited Ketchikan in 2019, I was impressed by the way in which local artists have been responsible for so many works influenced by the natural environment of this truly grandiose state. Many businesses in the city are dedicated to the sale of such works of art. It may be a truism, but Alaska has to be experienced to be understood — not that a visitor such as myself can truly grasp its subtleties — and a sense of sheer, overwhelming strength, intensity and natural freshness undoubtedly informs much locally produced artwork. The word 'unique' is also often overblown, but it can be stated that Alaska is truly unique.

Also worth seeing

In Ketchikan itself, visitors to the city often frequent the many gift stores specializing in Native Alaskan and other artwork; First Lutheran Church in Newtown was built in 1930 principally on account of the city's Norwegian population; St. John's Episcopal Church dates from 1904; the city is well known for its totem poles; 'The Rock' is a remarkable, historical sculpture by Dave Rubin; nearby Deer Mountain overlooks the City.

Misty Fiords National Monument (distance: 64 kilometres / 40 miles), governed by the US Forest Service, consists of 9,246 km2 / 2,294,343 acres of often near vertical glacial valleys, some of which rise to 600 to 900 metres / 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level and descend to 300 metres / 1000 feet below it; boat and floatplane tours [NB: Please check the FAA status of these floatplane tours] are organized from Ketchikan.

NB: In these blog articles with accounts of past travel at localities, often described within their historical context, I am pausing from including suggestions for travel conveyances and carriers because of the existence of travel advisories and sanitary regulations which may greatly differ from one jurisdiction to another.

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MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

Map location of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States

Map location of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States

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