Chief Skáwaal was the head of the of the Táas Láanas (Raven) clan in Old Kasaan for at least 20 years before he died in 1882-83. Skáwaal is the most well-known chief from Kasaan and appears to have been a powerful leader during his time.
Ensign Albert P. Niblack, U.S. Navy, conducted surveys of southern Alaska and northern British Columbia from 1885-1887. Niblack arrived in Old Kasaan about two years after Chief Skáwaal had died. He reported that according to the custom of the region, Skáwaal’s body was first displayed in state dressed in the ceremonial robes of a chief. Later it was enclosed in a casket and deposited on a pile of boxes containing his clothing and ceremonial dance paraphernalia. The pile of boxes, all full of valuables, the row of coppers, the bronze howitzer, etc., all indicate the rank and wealth of the deceased.
Above: Chief Skáwaal lying in state at Kasaan village. The casket is surrounded by emblems of his wealth and prowess. Taken in 1885 by Ensign A. P. Niblack, USN. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives Neg. #3867.
From interviews with Kasaan villagers, Ensign Niblack learned that Chief Skáwaal was a strong, aggressive, even tyrannical chief. According to Niblack's reports, "Skáwaal was always an enemy to the missionaries and resisted their encroachments to the last. He did much to keep his people to the old faith and to preserve among them the customs and manners of his forefathers."
According to Walter B. Young (Memories of Kasaan), Skáwaal married the sister of the Yáadaas (Eagle) chief, Kagwanshingá. Young could not recall the wife’s name. Skáwaal later married a second wife, Wáthlajád. Skáwaal had no children of his own, but adopted a daughter, Úlljueth (Mary). Úlljueth married Charles Vincent Baronovich (generally referred to as Slav or Austrian), who she met while visiting Victoria with Skáwaal. Úlljueth and Charles eventually moved to Kasaan and lived in a European design house next to Skáwaal’s houses, where Baronovich set up a trading post. They had at least nine children and maybe as many as fourteen. The oldest child was Caroline who married Paul Young. Walter Young is the son of Caroline and Paul.
Everyone agrees that Skáwaal’s successor erected the second pole, but disagreement exists as to the identity of this person. Some sources indicate that Skáwaal’s nephew, Paul Jones, succeeded him. Other informants say Skáwaal’s brother, K’ítchskwa’as, or Skáwaal’s brother in conjunction with another man, G´ú, became chief of the clan.
In either case, Nahíwaq remained in Skáwaal’s family and his descendants continued to live in the house until the entire village moved to New Kasaan between 1902 and 1904. U.S. Forest Service personnel became interested in making Old Kasaan a national monument and restoring Nahíwaq. However, in 1915, a fire of undetermined origin swept Old Kasaan, destroying numerous house and poles in the village. Nahíwaq was burned to the ground and Skáwaal’s pole damaged beyond repair. The other pole was untouched and eventually moved to New Kasaan and restored. The damaged pole withstood the battering of high tides, devastating fire and 100 years of rainfall before it finally toppled in 1980. The only evidence of Nahíwaq is three charred house posts standing along what was once the back wall.
CHIEF SKÁWAAL'S MASK
CHIEF SKÁWAAL'S POLE