Port of Saxman
Review and History

The Port of Saxman is just four kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of Ketchikan on Revillaglgedo Island in southeastern Alaska. In 2000, over 400 people called the Port of Saxman home, two-thirds of them Native Americans.

While some residents find work in the timber and tourist industries, most of the employment for Port of Saxman citizens is found in Ketchikan. Locals rely on deer, halibut, and salmon for their subsistence diets. Tourists come to the Port of Saxman to see the Totem Park.

Port History

In 1886, Presbyterian teacher Samuel Saxman was lost at sea with an Elder from Cape Fox while searching for a new site for a church and a Bureau of Indian Affairs school. When the Tlingits from the villages of Cape Fox and Tongass moved to the new site in 1894, they named it after Saxman.

The future Port of Saxman site was an ideal location for the new village, lying on the shores of a protected natural harbor off the Tongass Narrows. Soon after the villagers arrived, they built a sawmill, a school, and several new houses. The economic base for the new Port of Saxman included fishing and cutting lumber to support both Saxman and Ketchikan. Over 140 people lived in the Port of Saxman by the turn of the century.

The Port of Saxman incorporated as a city in 1929. Totem poles and other ceremonial pieces were rescued from abandoned villages at Tongass, Cape Fox, and Cat and Pennock islands. The United States Forest Service undertook a program to restore the totem poles and move them to the Port of Saxman.

In 1917, only three houses stood on the site of the Port of Saxman. The Cape Fox People, the Saanya Kwan, lived in Ketchikan's Old Indian Town at the time. During the Second World War, the Saanya Kwan people were moved to the Port of Saxman under the authority of the War Powers Act.

In 1967, a new rail-barge terminal was opened at the Port of Saxman to serve as the main cargo container terminal for the Port of Ketchikan.

The Organized Village of Saxman is a federally-recognized tribe. More than 70% of the population of the modern Port of Saxman is all or part Alaska Native. Most of the residents, who are Tlingit, are subsistence fishers and hunters.

The Port of Saxman totem pole carving center is not only a tourist attraction. It is also a treasured center where traditional Native Alaska skills are passed down to new generations. By the 2000 census, there were 165 housing units in the Port of Saxman, 146 of them homes for residents, and the remaining for seasonal occupants.

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