Noow Hít (Fort House)

-- Haat iyagu´t

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Fort Seward
United States
59° 13' 38.6364" N, 135° 26' 31.5096" W
Alaska Indian Arts, Inc.
Date Carved: 
1959 to 1973 (poles). House started in 1959 and dedicated August 11, 1962

The house was started in 1959. The floor and support posts and cross beams were up for a couple of years before the house was completed. The building was dedicated August 11, 1962.

Named Noow hit for Victor Hotch's recovery from double pneumonia in the hospital at the fort.  He was the Hitsati (House Master) of the Whale House in Klukwan.. (Noow is the Tlingit word for fort, home, security (the safety of your home) Hit is the Tlingit word for house.). 

At each of the outside corners are 4 poles. The two front corner poles traveled to the World's Fair in 1974 in Spokane, Washington. The top figure is a wolf with a frog on its chest; the middle figure is a sea grizzly with a halibut in its mouth; the bottom figure is a bear with a tinaa and there is a bear face on the tinaa. The two front poles are identical. On the front, the painting between the poles is a raven and it is one of the original screens done by AIA. On the backside is a 35 foot Friendship Pole by Leo Jacobs, Sr. and other carvers at Alaska Indian Arts (currently on the ground). The two back corner poles are lying down next to the Friendship Pole. These two poles are the same, they have a Chief with Talking Stick on the top, a Raven in the middle, and a Frog on the bottom. The back screen is a raven with a whale underneath. It was designed and painted by Nathan Jackson with help from Tresham Gregg.

Inside the tribal house are a Beaver Pole, Raven/Whale Pole, Raven Pole and Raven/Frog Pole as well as a large Split Raven carved screen. The current carving of the screen is by Tresham Gregg. The original screen and design are by John Hagen, Sr. and it is now located inside AIA. For awhile it was the backdrop at the Chilkat Center. There is a silk screen print of this design available at AIA.  The pole to the right of the screen was carved by Bill Holm and Jeff David, Sr. in 1959. This was the first large totem pole carved in Haines in many years. It has a Frog on the bottom and a Diving Raven on the top. This is Carl Heinmiller's name pole: "Khawhoos Bau" or "Sound the Raven Makes with It's Wings." This sound is also likened to beating on a Tinaa. Bill Thomas has the same name. This pole stood outside the tribal house for a number of years before any other poles were carved. Because of this exposure, the cedar surface is grey.

The pole to the facing left of the screen was the first pole carved by Tresham Gregg, dated 1960/61. It is Judy Heinmiller's name pole. It features a Raven looking at his reflection in the water. The top raven is holding a face with arms, which is his imagination. The bottom raven is the reflection. Judy's Tlingit name means "Looking in the Water" because of her blue eyes.

The pole to the left of the entrance door, when one's back is to the screen, was carved by Carl Heinmiller in 1963/1964. The top figure is a beaver with a stick in his hands. The beaver tail is folded up. Underneath him is a hawk and a frog. This early carving is much more primitive than later poles created by AIA. Eyes look strange and are uneven.

The pole to the right of the entrance door, as one faces the door from inside the building, was carved by John Hangen Sr. about 1974. The top figure is a Raven with a protruding beak. Underneath the Raven is a Whale. 

- Thanks to the Haines Sheldon Museum for info from their Totem Trot event.

Ikaduwakaa and the Storyboard are part of the Doorways to the Past; Gateway to the Future project, cooperatively supported by the Chilkoot Indian Association, Haines Borough Public Library, and a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership, and lifelong learning.