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The return of the Teikweidi grizzly bear house posts

During the summer of 1899, there were two expeditions a month apart that removed poles and other cultural properties without the permission of the owners from two Tlingit villages in Southeast Alaska, Gaash and Tongass. The first was the Harriman Expedition, which cut down four house posts, a complete house front, and four totem poles from the Tlingit village of Gaash at Cape Fox. Harriman gave one of two grizzly bear house posts to the young Burke Museum upon his return to Seattle. The matching post was first given to the University of Michigan and later transferred to the Burke Museum. Taken from the Teikweidi clan's Kaats house in Gaash, the posts show a bear holding a human in its mouth, a depiction of the story of Kaats, who married a grizzly bear.

In July 2001, the Burke Museum along with four other museums returned the eight poles and the house front to the Saanykwaan, the people of Cape Fox. This was accomplished with the help of the Harriman Expedition Retraced voyage, sponsored by Smith College, which returned the house posts from the Burke aboard the Clipper Odyssey, to the welcoming crowds on the dock at Ketchikan. An emotional and healing ceremony was held both in Ketchikan and at the original village site at Gaash, where the Saanya Kwaan, the great-great-granddaughter of E.H. Harriman, and museum representatives honored the ancestors and acknowedged the wrong that had been done. The Burke has accepted a gift from the Cape Fox people of cedar logs to replace the house posts. Two new house posts by Tlingit artists Nathan and Stephen Jackson are on dislay in the Pacific Voices Exhibit at the Burke Museum.

Grizzly Bear house post at the Burke Museum, before its return to the Cape Fox Corporation.
Welcoming Home the Grizzly Bear house post, photo by Ellen Ferguson, July 2001