Fact file: Totem poles

February 28, 2008

– Native American Sculptures

What? A totem pole is a sculpture made of great trees. Because it is made of trees, they decay easily in the rainforest environment. These poles are usually carved and painted onto containers, house fronts, canoes, masks, intricately-woven blankets, ceremonial dresses, weapons, armor, and many other tools and implements. The humans and animals made on the poles are called crests, and is a family symbol, for instance to show the family’s pride, history and identity.

Who? Totem poles are traditional art of the Native American tribes along the Pacific Northwest in North America.

Where? Pacific Northwest in North America. 

Why? The purpose of the totem poles has a lot of varieties between the cultures and the tribes. Some are made for the cultural message, while others are made only for the artistic presentation. They can be used to illustrate stories, commemorate historical persons or to represent shamanic or spiritual powers. What’s important to remember is that they were never made as objects of worship.