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November 17th, 2015
The Alaskan Totem Poles

Totem Pole

We saw lots of cool totem poles while in Vancouver and Alaska. Totem poles are not religious in nature but tell the story of local families, the way they connect and their different rights within the family group. Sometimes they can be used to mock or berate a family or family member who has done something wrong.

Before the arrival of the white man, totem poles tended to be smaller, but with the availability of metal tools, the carvers became more ambitious and the totem poles much taller.

One thing I found interesting is that once a pole is erected it isn’t maintained, but is left to rot. It will be removed if it poses a danger and some topple during winter storms. The poles last for between 60 to 100 years.

We have similar poles in New Zealand, and I did a post about them earlier. You can find the post on pouwhenua here.

4 comments to “The Alaskan Totem Poles”

  1. I’ve always found totem poles to be interesting. I saw quite a few of them when I was a kid and we went to Arizona on our way to Utah. They are definitely unique.

  2. I find them interesting too. They are all so different and tailored to particular families. I like the animal figures they use.

  3. I’ve always been fascinated by totem poles around the world. It’s interesting how an object can appear in such diverse cultures.

    I wonder if it would scare the neighbors away if I put up a totem pole. ;-)

  4. I’d put up one in a heartbeat, if I had the ability to carve. It would be kind of fun, making your own totem. I say, go for it, Maria!