Sunday, August 30, 2009


Taking a break from the Seven Random Things Meme, I was driving down Country Homes Boulevard the other day when this brilliant white totem pole caught my attention. I can only assume that a coat of primer was applied prior to re-painting. The white struck me for reasons I can't fully explain, and so I turned around to get these pictures.

Totem poles are somewhat misplaced in this region. Giving the full benefit of the doubt, I presume somebody must have thought to honor Native cultures, but they did so by creating a monument far removed from the traditions of the Spokane people. Local tribes never made totem poles, so I generally feel strange to see them around these parts. And from what I hear, they're are even misnamed. They represent family heralds or crests more than personal totems.

So I'm curious, does anyone know an authentic story behind the purpose of real totem poles? Does anyone know an authentic name from their culture of origin?


Oklahoma Girl said...

Here is one article I found. I am not aware of my tribes having totem poles & the Plains Tribes did not have them either to my knowledge. Of course they were nomadic so it would have really been senseless.

These are the tribes that I found to have totem poles: Chinook,Haidia,Pueblo,Tuisumi

Hope this helps.

blessed be....

Totem Poles Past and Present
Their History, Design, and Cultural Significance
© Annika S. Hipple

Apr 1, 2009
Native to Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington, totem poles had many purposes, the most important of which was to record the stories of the tribes that raised them.

Totem poles are probably among the most familiar of all native North American crafts. They originated with the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes along the northwestern coast of the continent, where abundant food supplies gave carvers the leisure time to develop their craft. After the arrival of Europeans brought new, sharper tools, totem carving became more widespread and elaborate.

Made of cedar, totems served many purposes. Each figure represented an element in a story; together, the poles recorded the history and legends of the tribes, which had no written language. The figures on totem poles are not gods to be worshipped; rather, they represent certain traits or characteristics that the clan considered itself to embody. They are often compared to the emblems on a coat of arms or the Great Seal of the United States.

Types of Totem Poles
There are several types of totem poles. Genealogy poles were erected in front of a home to identify the owner’s clan and status. Memorial poles were raised in honor of a deceased clan member. Mortuary poles served the same purpose but included a compartment for the ashes of the deceased. Shame poles were carved to castigate a person who had wronged the clan or village. Shame poles were taken down only after the offending person had made appropriate reparation. Other poles depicted myths or legends of the clan or were raised in honor of important deeds or events.

Color and Design
Colors were limited by the availability of natural pigments, with black the most common. It was made by grinding soot, graphite, or charcoal and mixing it with pulverized salmon eggs. Red, used for secondary elements, came from red ochre, and blue-green, used for highlighting, was made from copper sulfide.

Common totemic figures include Raven (a symbol of the creator), Eagle (who represents peace and friendship), Killer Whale (a symbol of strength), Thunderbird, Beaver, Bear, Wolf, and Frog.

Read more:

cieldequimper said...

No, I don't but I am surprised at its location too. Hope you find an answer.


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