In Ketchikan we didn’t find any native people to “listen” to but we spent a lot of time visiting the two fantastic totem pole parks there, resting and doing a little gift shopping.
Downtown Ketchikan caters to the glamorous cruise ships from around the world that dock there, each one a floating city. Front Street, across the dock, is nearly all diamond dealers. In New Town, the part of town on the other side of a tunnel drilled through a rock with houses sitting on top, we took the bus and found a world of workers. We met many people who come from the Phillipines, Peru, Mexico and many American cities for the season to work in the canneries, for the ferries, contruction, restaurants and fishing.
Another day we took a float plane (the first time for both of us) out to Annette Island, to visit the new Presbyterian pastor at Metlakatla, the only Indian reservation in Alaska. Tom Sutherland hadn’t been ordained yet, (he was a Commissioned Lay Pastor with the Nez Perce which was how we learned about him) and had just arrived on the island. We ate sushi complete with sea asparagus, kippered salmon and sea cucumber in a tiny restaurant near the harbor and watched some small boats put out their gill nets.
Tom drove us around the small village and took us to see the church and then up to the hospital to meet an elder who works as a receptionist there. Elaine Guthrie explained the meaning of a small totem pole we had seen with a cross on it. She said it was made for her and two other women who retired from teaching native dances. Both George and Tom gave us valuable insights into the workings of Presbyterian mission in the area.
On our last day in Ketchikan we walked a little ways up Ketchikan Creek to watch the dog salmon spawning below the bridge. It was a thrilling and poignant sight to watch those noble fish returning to their birthplace to spawn, a trip they will make only once.
Even as they are arriving they are already dying. Neighbors around there said all the dead salmon make a real stink. We had arrived just in time to see them but not smell them and as you can see from the pictures the weather that week was incredible. It didn’t start raining until we got to Sitka where we are now. It looks like rain for the next week.
One difference between New Mexico and Alaska — raincoats and umbrellas. We bought ours to go to Scotland a few years ago. Here, when you hang up your raincoat to dry, it takes all day and an umbrella is your best friend once you get used to juggling it.