What is a totem pole?
- A totem is a symbolic representation of a sacred figure, object, or being,
- In Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest the totem pole often serves as an emblem of family ancestry.
- Some poles record the history and legends of their tribe.
- Others memorialize dead clan members and may contain their ashes.
- Shame Poles are carved to publically embarrass someone who has broken tribal rules.
- When the sinner makes amends, the Shame Pole is taken down.
- Welcome Poles greet newcomers to the community.
- Many carved poles are painted using dyes from natural materials – black (coal), red (clay), green (Copper sulfide), etc.
- Although specific meaning can differ from tribe to tribe, the most popular figures generally represent the following:
raven = the Creator
eagle = peace, friendship
whale = strength
thunderbird = power, transformation
beaver = determination
bear = guardian healer
wolf = loyalty, perseverance
frog = rebirth, cleansing
Legends of America, “Native American Totem Animals and Their Meanings,” at http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-totems.html
Wikipedia, “Totem Poles,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totem_pole
Wonderopolis, “What Is A Totem Pole?” at http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-totem-pole/