Totem Pole Facts: Learn About This Amazing Art Form! | Kidadl


Totem Pole Facts: Learn About This Amazing Art Form!

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Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Totem poles are wooden towers with carvings of animals and symbols that reflect the position and status of a family within a tribe.

Totem is derived from the Algonquian term 'odoodem,' which means 'his kinship group,' also referred to as family or a clan. Totem poles around the coastal region of British Columbia, like Salish, Nisga'a, and Haida designs, can be found in Stanley Park.

The carvings may represent ancestors, cultural beliefs, tales, clan lines, or significant events. The totem poles are used as architectural embellishments and a welcome sign for village guests.

Carving Tools

Earlier tools such as seashells, sharpened pebbles, beaver teeth, and bones were used to sculpt totem poles. The European traders brought iron tools that were ideal for building totem poles.

Chain saws are used to make rough cuts and forms, while adzes and chisels are utilized for slicing the wood. Carvers add finer details with knives and other woodworking tools. After the carving is finished, paint is used to bring out the intricacies of the figures. The colors used on totem poles were black, red, white, and blue-green.

The fundamental design for figures was probably painted on the wood to help the carvers initially, but today's carvers use paper templates as outlines for their creations.

Construction And Maintenance

Constructing a totem pole demands aesthetic ability and a thorough knowledge of cultural history and forest ecology. A totem pole can take somewhere around three to nine months to carve. Most longhouses included house pillars carved with human or animal motifs to support the major beams of the building.

Totem poles are often fashioned from the western red cedar tree or yellow cedar tree because they do not decay and last for many years. Many coastal First Nations tribes would execute a ceremony of gratitude and respect in honor of a cedar tree before it is harvested for a totem pole.

Following the selection of the tree for the totem pole, it is chopped down and transported to the carving site, where the bark and outer layer are removed. The core has been carved out to make the log lighter and prevent it from cracking.

Even for poles put in modern surroundings, erecting a totem pole is rarely done using modern technologies. The majority of artists employ a traditional technique, followed by a pole-raising ritual.

Totem poles are usually not well maintained after they have been erected and the potlatch ceremony has taken place. The poles are either demolished or dismantled once they begin to rot to the point where they tilt and represent a danger to pedestrians.

Totem pole facts reveal they are sculptures carved from a western red cedar tree.

Meaning And Purpose

Different kinds of totem poles signify different meanings. For example, certain totem poles are designed to greet or intimidate visitors, while others are used to mark significant events such as weddings.

Totem poles can represent mythological characters and events, as well as the experiences of recent ancestors and modern people. Eagle, raven, fish, wolf, plant, insect, frog, thunderbird, and human may be shown on pole carvings.

Certain poles honor cultural ideas, such as well-known folklore, clan lines, or significant events, while others are primarily artistic. Symbols such as animals and other figures carved on the pole are usually used to depict characters or events in a narrative.


Totem poles have been a legacy for centuries, but these poles are still being made today. Native carvers carve the poles in the Northwest as symbols of cultural pride and clan family ties.


What is the most important part of a totem pole?

The bottom symbol on a totem pole is considered the most important.

How old is the concept of the totem pole?

The totem poles are thought to be older than 11,600 years.

What is the spiritual meaning of a totem pole?

A totem is a supernatural being, sacred object, or symbol representing a tribe, clan, family, or individual. The Native American tribe believes that each individual is connected to nine different animals who will act as mentors throughout their lives.

What is the purpose of a totem pole?

The totem poles represent the history of a nation, family, or individual, as well as their rights to certain lands, melodies, performances, and other parts of their culture.

How do you read a totem pole?

Totem poles are typically read from top to bottom.

How much does a totem pole cost?

The price of the totem poles approximately ranges between $25,000 to $60,000.

Where can you find the tallest totem pole standing today?

Kwakwaka'wakw, the world's highest totem pole, is found near Alert Bay.

How to propagate the totem pole cactus?

A multitude of cacti can be grown from stem cuttings. Stem cuttings are taken from a plant then dried and calloused before being used. The cuttings will start roots and develop as a new plant.

How to make a miniature totem pole?

To build a small totem pole, you must first choose your wood. Then, before adding the detail, prepare the pole's primary shape. Then, evaluate your designs and sketch them out with a pencil. While using the ranger knife, both chisels, and a spoon gouge, carve and sculpt your design. Finally, sand the totem pole down gently and paint the pole.

How tall is the totem pole in Tasmania?

Totem poles can grow up approximately 213 ft (65 m) tall!

How to make a pumpkin totem pole?

Use a knife or drill to make the holes the top and bottom and designs in the pumpkin. Install fence post lights to illuminate the totem. They can be planted in a pre-planned manner on the surface or as a totem on the poles.

Written By
Jaba Sharma

<p>A highly skilled content writer and editor, Jaba brings over six years of experience in the field to her role. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Science from Lucknow University and a Master's degree in Business Administration with a specialization in finance from the Institute of Environment &amp; Management, Lucknow. Jaba's meticulous approach and creative mindset naturally led her into the world of content writing. She began her career as a Website Content Writer and Backend Admin at EventTraveler Pvt. Ltd, where she gained extensive experience in creating web pages, writing, and editing content and conducting in-depth web research.&nbsp;</p>

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