Totem Poles in Vancouver BC
10 key facts about totem poles
- Traditional totem poles are made from a single cedar trunk; they are carved wooden pillars of First Nations communities of the Northwest Coast.
- The crest is usually the top figure on the totem pole; some crest figures include Raven, Eagle, and Thunderbird..
- Crests represent a family’s history, clan and lineage in the form of supernatural beings.
- The saying “low man on the totem pole” is a misconception, because the bottom figures on totem poles can be of equal or greater importance to figures placed higher up.
- Traditionally, totem poles were symbols of wealth and prestige.
- Totem poles take about 6 to 12 months to complete.
- The tallest totem pole in the 19th century was 24.4 meters (80 ft) in height.
- Earliest recorded sighting of a totem pole was in 1791 by fur trader John Bartlett in the Haida winter village of Kiusta on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
- Presently, the tallest totem pole is located in Alert Bay with a height of 53 meters (173 ft).
- On average a totem pole lifespan is 60 to 80 years; poles decay due to insects, wind, weather, fungi, and splits in the wood.
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