Native American Indian Totem Poles

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Totem poles are poles or posts carved with symbols or figures. They are usually carved from large trees, mostly red cedar, by Native American Indians of the West Coast of North America. A totem is an emblem, such as an animal or plant, that is believed to have spiritual significance and that watches over the family, clan, or tribe. Totem poles are not objects of worship but they are viewed with respect.

Totem poles are carved and painted with unique symbols and figures depending upon the clan or tribe. To interpret the meanings behind them requires knowledge of that particular clan or family’s customs, traditions and history. Every colour and figure used on the totem poles have meanings and when combined on the pole they tell family legends, clan lineages, or notable events.

Totem Pole Raising Ceremonies

Most First Nations commemorate the erection of a totem pole with a raising ceremony. At these ceremonies, the significance of the pole and meanings behind the carved figures and painted colours are told. They may be erected to commemorate the life of a chief, or to celebrate an important event, so the reason for the pole’s creation is shared and celebrated at such times.

Please view our gallery to find many examples of totem poles carved by genuine Native American Indian Artists.