Native American Totem Pole

If you lived in times past and were a native American totem pole carver by trade, you would have had food, shelter, and entertainment provided for you while you did your carving.  A worker is worthy his wages, so what if while carving a native American totem pole, you thought your weren’t treated fairly, or your needs weren’t properly cared for?

Well, as the native American totem pole carver, you could get even.  You would probably, as non-conspicuously as possible carve one of the figures of animals on the native American totem pole upside down!



And if your needs were sorely neglected, say, maybe your stomach growled all day long, it would only be fair that you, the native American totem pole carver let the knife slip, so to speak, and carve your employer, uh, totally in the raw.

Of course, if this happened the chief would be too embarrassed to display his native American totem pole in pride, or in any other way.

On a more serious note, a person usually displayed his native American totem pole to silently speak the story of his family’s identity.  A person’s native American totem pole would always be on display, where anyone interested could view and study it, showing the social uses of the native American totem pole.

A native American totem pole is rich with cultural meaning.  The whole point was to preserve that culture through a native American totem pole, for the offspring of the family to remember their personal heritage.  A native American totem pole scrapbook, if you will.

Since a native American totem pole was always carved from wood, most commonly cedar, they would decay quickly.  So there are not really any ancient examples of a native American totem pole in existence today for our viewing pleasure.

Early missionaries bemoaned that a native American totem pole was an object of heathenism, and was displayed at the front of a dwelling to ward off evil spirits.  A native American totem pole, in their opinion should be avoided at all cost, and even destroyed, so early examples have also been lost.

But native American totem pole carving is an art that is becoming popular again, and many poles are coming into existence, anew.

These days a native American totem pole may not only be carved from wood, but also from stone and glass.  These examples of a native American totem pole can take up to a year to be hand carved, and so it is very understandable why the cost is so exuberantly high.

A common myth is that the original native American totem pole was designed as an object to aid in worship; however, this is not true.  This is further seen in the fact that a native American totem pole was commonly left in the forest to rot, clearly not something that was held in reverence.

Understanding the meaning of animals or emblems used on a native American totem pole was the only way to understand the story being told, unless the owner would tell you, himself.

More on this subject: Native American Totem Poles





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