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What is a TOTEM POLE? Alaska 1940
Totems • A totem pole is a sculpture made of great trees. • Because it is made of trees, they decay easily in the rainforest environment. • Totems are carved into and painted onto containers, house fronts, canoes, masks, intricately-woven blankets, ceremonial dresses, weapons, armor, and tools. • 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 makes Totem Poles? Alaska 1899
• Totem poles are traditional art of the Native American tribes along the Pacific Northwest in North America
• These cultures have occupied, and in some cases still live in parts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana
B. C. ca. 1910
• Pacific Northwest in North America • B. C. ca. 1900
What is the purpose of a totem pole?
Totem poles • The purpose of the totem poles varies among 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.
Because the Northwest Coast is a rainforest, the wood rots quickly. Because of this, there are very few examples of totem poles carved before 1900. Another reason why there are few old examples is because missionaries thought them to be religious symbols and had them burned.
Artists still carve totem poles today. Today's carvers charge from $500 to $3, 000 per foot for their totem poles.
Types of Totem Poles Crest Totem Poles: Usually part of a house, they portray a family's ancestry and the emblems of its clan. Story-telling Totem Poles: The most common type, these are made for a wedding, to preserve history or to ridicule bad debtors. Mortuary Totem Poles: These totem poles are made to honor the dead. Cremation ashes are often kept in a compartment in the back. A single figure represents the deceased person or their clan.
The vertical order of images is widely believed to be a significant representation of importance. The higher the figures on the pole the more important or prestigious they are. This is where the phrase "low man on the totem pole" comes from.
Sometimes, however, an important family will place their family crest on the bottom of the totem pole. This makes it look like it is supporting all the other figures. Because a tree is thickest at its base, this figure would be a lot bigger too, making it seem more important. Placement on the bottom also brings that figure closer to the people, increasing their interaction with that crest.
B. C. ca. 1910
Alaska ca. 1938
B. C. ca. 1909
Native groups who make totem poles: Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakiuts, Makah, Nez Perce, Nisqualli, Nootka, Quinault, Puyallup, Salish, Snohomish, Spokane, Shuswap, Swinomish, Tlingit, Tsimshian
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 OWL Wisdom 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
These tribes relied a great deal on food from the sea, like salmon, seals, sea otters, whales, and oter animals
Personal Totem Sculpture Product Create a totem to be put together for a class totem pole. Your section must: a. Be bilaterally symmetrical b. Be a stylized animal: head or whole body c. Have one symbol that repesents your family d. Have one symbol that represents NC e. Be made of plaster mesh or papier mache’ f. Fit on the class totem pole g. Have parts that stick out on the sides but not the top or bottom h. Be completely painted i. Show excellent craftsmanship j. Be complete, sturdy, and awesome!
Process List the symbols you will use for the project: Personal animal totem Family totem State totem Sketch at least two different layouts in your sketchbook. Your Personal animal totem is the body of the section. The family and state totems may be sculptural or painted onto your personal totem. If approved, start putting your sculpture together using available materials. When your sculpture is ready, papier mache’ or plaster mesh it. You must have at least two complete layers! When dry, cut strings, glue down problem areas, sand if needed. Paint the whole sculpture. You may glue items to it after it is painted. Make it personal and fun!
Studio time: Stay on task continuously throughout the class period Keep art room as possible: “clean as you go” Participate in clean up and put materials back where they belong Help teacher and classmates