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Totem Poles. Pencil & Journal Please. What is a TOTEM POLE? Alaska 1940. A totem pole is a sculpture made of great trees. Because it is made of trees, they decay easily in the rainforest environment. 

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totem poles

Totem Poles

Pencil & Journal Please

A totem pole is a sculpture made of great trees.
  • Because it is made of trees, they decay easily in the rainforest environment. 
  • These poles are usually carved and painted onto containers, house fronts, canoes, masks, intricately-woven blankets, ceremonial dresses, weapons, armor, and many other tools and implements.
  • The humans and animals made on the poles are called crests, and is a family symbol, for instance to show the family’s pride, history and identity.
Totem poles are traditional art of the Native American tribes along the Pacific Northwest in North America
These cultures have occupied, and in some cases still live in parts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana
Pacific Northwest in North America
  • This totem is British Columbia ca.1900
The purpose of the totem poles has a lot of varieties between the cultures and the tribes.
  • Some are made for the cultural message, while others are made only for the artistic presentation.
  • They can be used to illustrate stories, commemorate historical persons or to represent shamanic or spiritual powers.
  • What’s important to remember is that they were NEVER made as objects of worship.
It is believed that SPIRITS enter & exit through the eyes, nose and ears of the faces
  • The oldest tote is about 125 years old
  • Totems rot from the top…down!
  • 1792 the first image of a totem was drawn
  • Totems are made from carvable trees like the CEADER

Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakiuts, Makah, Nez Perce, Nisqualli, Nootka,Quinault, Puyallup, Salish, Snohomish, Spokane, Shuswap, Swinomish, Tlingit, Tsimshian


These tribes relied a great deal on food from the sea, like salmon, seals, sea otters, whales, and oter animals

how the project will be graded personal life totem poles
How the project will be GRADED… Personal Life Totem Poles

Product (Contents):

2 sketch designs before you begin…each one needs to be at least ½ sheet of paper in size

Your totem pole must have at least 3 or more separate design elements that reflect your personality or life history

Totem must include at least one section the extends off of the surface

One complete COLORED life size final drawing of totem pole before you begin the actual sculpture

One GRAPHIC designed 3D sculptures of totem painted with well throughout colors and designs outlined in black

process craftsmanship
Process (Craftsmanship):

Drawing must be neat, colored, graphic, and look exactly like what you will build for your 3D sculpture

(Drawing will be graded separate and hold a strong value towards the final product)

Sculpture must be smoothed out, clean, graphic, completely painted, and reflect a well crafted design and outlined in black

studio time
Studio time:

Stayed on task

Supplies MUST be put away where they go!

Worked continuously throughout the class period

Must participate in clean up & put materials AWAY

Make up any missed days: That means excused or unexcused, 3 tardies = 1 absence