Home » travel » Totem Poles

Totem Poles

Totems at Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Center in Duncan, BC (2004)

The First Nations tribes of the Pacific Northwest have created a unique art form in the totem pole. They are truly multipurpose. According to Wikipedia:

The carvings may symbolize or commemorate ancestors, cultural beliefs that recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. The poles may also serve as functional architectural features, welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for the remains of deceased ancestors, or as a means to publicly ridicule someone. They may embody a historical narrative of significance to the people carving and installing the pole. Given the complexity and symbolic meanings of these various carvings, their placement and importance lies in the observer’s knowledge and connection to the meanings of the figures and the culture in which they are embedded.

The above totem poles were from the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Center in Duncan on Vancouver Island.

Interestingly, totem poles till being carved. In Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, I took this picture of a First Nations member carving a new totem pole.

Carving a New Totem Pole

I hope to take a trip to Southeast Alaska and visit the totem poles in Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, and other locations. Instead of taking a cruise, I prefer to fly to Ketchikan and travel using the oceangoing ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway. That way, Martine and I can concentrate on seeing the sights—and not schmoozing with cruise ship passengers.