Though it may appear that the low man on the Totem Pole lacks status, odds are he was carved by the master carver to make sure most intricate and best carved figures were at eye level. Totem Poles are sculptures that tell a story carved on pillars made from large trees, mostly western red cedar, and are a traditional part of Native American culture in the Pacific Northwest.
Ketchikan, Alaska is home to the largest collection of totems found in the world with more than 80 poles scattered throughout the city including ancient poles kept in climate controlled protection. Totems date back beyond the 1700s and contain painted carvings of animals that hold deep symbolism similar to a poem. A Totem Pole served as the emblem of a family or clan and was raised to depict family legends, animals, people, or historical events. Totem figures are not gods, and were never worshiped or used as a talisman.
Animal Symbols of the Pacific Northwest Totems (Manataka.org)
|BEAVER||Creative, Artistic and Determined|
|BEAR||Strength, Learned Humility, Motherhood, Teaching|
|BUMBLEBEE||Honesty, Pure Thinking – Willingness and Drive|
|COPPER||Wealth and Prestige|
|DOGFISH||Persistence and Strength – A Born Leader|
|DOVE||Love, Gentleness and Kindness|
|DRAGON FLY||Ever-changing Life|
|EAGLE||Great Strength, Leadership and Prestige|
|EAGLE FEATHER||Good Luck to Both Giver and Receiver|
|FROG||Spring & New Life – Communicator, Stability|
|HALIBUT||Life protector, Strength and Stability|
|HAWK||Strength Far Sighted|
|HERON||Patience, Graceful and Easy Going|
|HUMMINGBIRD||Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger|
|KILLER WHALE||Traveler & Guardian – Symbol of Good|
|KINGFISHER||Luck, Patience, Speed and Agility|
|LOON||Peace, Tranquility – Generous Giving Nature|
|MOON||Protector and Guardian of the Earth by Night|
|OTTER||Trusting, Inquisitive and Bright – Loyal Friendship|
|RAVEN||Creation & Knowledge – Bringer of the Light|
|SALMON||Dependability and Renewal – A Provider|
|SEAL||Bright, Inquisitive, Organized|
|SUN||Healing Energy, Guardian of the Earth by Day|
|THUNDERBIRD||Powerful & Mystical – A Leader|
|WOLF||Intelligence & Leadership – Strong Sense of Family|
Poles can still be commissioned today for a price ranging from $25,000 – 60,000. To be considered authentic, the Totem Pole needs to be sanctioned and pass certain tests. It typically must be made by a trained Northwest Pacific Coast native, and must be raised or blessed by the Northwest Coast elders who are part of the Totem Pole tradition.
You could win a trip to see the totems of Alaska in Ketchikan! Register to give blood with Community Blood Center May 2 – September 3, 2016 and you will be automatically entered to win a trip to Alaska for two. For official rules, visit GivingBlood.org.