Totem pole

DEFINITION

A totem is a representation of an animal, a plant, or a natural object that serves among certain tribal or traditional peoples as an emblem or as a guardian. Or, the animal, plant or natural object itself.A totem pole is a traditional form among artists of various Native peoples of the "Northwest Coast"; British Columbia, Canada and southern Alaska, USA. Carved from mature cedar trees, full size totem poles were originally an important part of the Potlatch ceremony, a feast with deep meaning to coastal First Nations. Totem poles were once carved and raised to represent a family-clan, its kinship system and stories. A totem pole served, in essence, as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry. It might be raised to honor of a deceased elder, or to show the (great) number of names and rights a person had acquired over their lifetime, or to record an encounter with a supernatural being, or to symbolize the generosity of a person who sponsored a Potlatch ceremony. Contemporary totem poles are carved for both Natives and non-Natives, and have come to represent Northwest Pacific Coast Native tradition and pride. The adjectival form of totem is totemic.

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