Totem Poles - A Sign of Affluence
Totem poles a sign of affluence, a display of wealth. They were expensive and time consuming to construct requiring significant manpower in their construction and erection, which is why they are generally found near the houses of Native American chiefs. A totem pole in front of a Native Indian's home would show the ancestry and the social rank of the family. They validated the powerful rights and privileges that the family held.
Locations of Totem Poles
The locations of totem poles vary. Some stand in front of the houses, or very near them; others posts are set near the waterfront or beach, beyond the village. For additional, interesting info refer to How to make a Totem Pole.
Symbols on Totem Poles
Totem Poles are created using Pictography, or writing with pictures and symbols. Totem poles have unique features and colors depending upon the clan or tribe. Their interpretation requires knowledge of the customs, traditions and history of the clan or family. Every color used on the Poles have meanings as do the figures carved on the Totem Poles. The Symbols for every animal or spirit carved on the pole also have meaning and when combined on the pole, in sequence, constitute a story, legend or myth.
Thunderbird Totem Pole
Meaning of Totem Poles - Carvings and Symbols
The meaning of Totem Poles can be interpreted from the carvings and symbols that tell a story.
- Every animal depicted on a Pole had a special meaning, characteristics and significance - refer to Animal Totems
- Every color had a special meaning and significance
- Every tribe and clan or family had a special animal totem and their poles were associated with specific colors
- The position of figures on the pole were significant
- Directional colors - Some colors symbolized the four cardinal points
The Decay of Totem Poles
As totem poles become old they decay and become weather-beaten and gray in color. Groups of old poles are sometimes compared to a forest of tree trunks left after a fire has swept through a wooded district.
Pictures of House Totem Poles of Northwest Indians
Creating Totem Poles - How long did it take?
The length of time taken to carve and paint the poles clearly depended on the size of the pole and the intricacy of the carving. Generally totem poles could take between 3 and 9 months to complete and required the skills of the experienced carver and his helpers.