Totem Poles

Many Native American Indians expressed themselves with their artwork carved into totem poles. Many believe that all Indian tribes carved totem poles but this is far from the truth. Those Indians living in the southwest, the plains and Inuit Indians did not have trees to carve. Long ago totem poles were found to stand 40 feet tall. Today Indian artists continue to carve trees but some are short and used in homes as decoration. True Indian carved totem poles take quite a bit of work, craftsmanship and time to produce. This means that an authentic Indian carved pole will cost more than $500 per foot.


The raising of a totem pole is a big celebration among the Indian tribe. A hole is dug to stand the pole in. The pole is carried to the site in a ceremony which often hundreds attend. Ropes will be used to raise the pole into place. Singing and dancing to drums accompanies the pole raising. Often poles are raised this way before the carving begins.

Many have believed that totem poles are religious symbols but this is false. Carvings will represent the tribal nation and will convey the tribes’ history. Many times the story of a totem pole will be passed down from generation to generation. Having the story documented will help keep this tradition recognized in our history.


Totem poles held messages by those that carved them. Carvings were symbols that may tell a story of the carver, such as his part not just in his own family but his standing within a tribe. Carvings such as an eagle could mean pride in his tribe. Often traditions and tribal life were carved into the pole. Carving totem poles is a tradition among many Indian tribes, especially those tribes that lived along the Pacific coast where forests grew. Many totem poles no longer exist because of decay and rot. Today these poles are still being carved and enjoyed by collectors.


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