Totem poles are wonderful examples of aboriginal art. They are monuments created by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to represent and commemorate ancestry, histories, people, or events. They showcase a nation’s, family’s or individual’s history and displays their rights to certain territories, songs, dances and other aspects of their culture.
Animal images on totem poles depict creatures from family crests. These crests are considered the property of specific family lineages and reflect the history of that lineage. Animals commonly represented on the crests include the beaver, bear, wolf, shark, killer whale, raven, eagle, frog and mosquito. The crest animals represent kinship, group membership and identity, while the rest of the pole may represent a family’s history.
In the heart of Vancouver, at Stanley Park, a collection of Kwakiutl and Haida totem poles represents styles from a few of the Northwest Pacific coast native traditions. Another one in Alert Bay in BC is said to be the tallest in the world.