Totem poles are a traditional way of telling the stories of First Nation families and clans, and of keeping records of important historical events. Many people think of the totem pole as belonging to Indigenous cultures all across Canada, but did you know that only six West Coast First Nations are responsible for the creation of totem poles?
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It's easy to tell where a totem pole comes from based on how it's carved because the style and design of each pole are specific to each family, clan or region. Most totem poles were carved from mature cedar trees using sharpened stones and cedar carving tools. Cedar resists rot better than other trees and was therefore a natural choice to ensure that the stories are preserved for many future generations.
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The collection has grown from those original poles commissioned in the s. In , the City commissioned a new pole to celebrate the centennial of the City of Duncan, together with the new signage to complement its outdoor collection. The oral histories collected by Jane Mertz during this project have created access to the previously-untold stories of the artists and their families.
Dances were as much of an art form as carved figures and poles. Many artists spoke of a spiritual connection to the original tree. Sharing our stories matters. You and your legacy matter.
Totem pole - Wikipedia
One of the things that intrigues me about totem poles is how sacred they are. Not only are the stories they share important, but the process of making a totem pole involves a deeply rooted ritual. From the moment a cedar tree is cut down, to the moment a completed totem pole is erected, there are deliberate and careful steps followed and honored. A story is told through the totem pole with the top symbol depicting the most important component of the story, and then descends in order of importance.
A story told through a totem pole is crafted with tremendous purpose, and holds stories full of wisdom and knowledge that are meant to be shared with others. When I visualize my totem pole, I see that the top symbol is a magnificent butterfly with colorful wings as the symbolism of the butterfly is everything to me…I am the butterfly. My story of transformation is just like the butterfly story. We all have stories, and our stories shape our lives and our legacy.
Sharing our stories matter. Sharing your stories matter. This past summer, my family and I traveled to Alaska in celebration of my parents 50th wedding anniversary. The main souvenir I wanted to purchase for myself on that trip was my very own authentic Alaskan-carved totem pole. I sought out the non-touristy shops at each port, and browsed until I found the totem pole that grabbed my attention, and I bought it.
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The artist sat with me and told me the story of the piece The Whale Song , and I felt incredibly honored to have that once in a lifetime experience. Now, my new totem pole sits in our living room next to my Shaman drum and salt lamp, and other treasures. This totem pole is a symbol and a reminder for me to keep writing and keep sharing.