A great number of the miniatureTotem Poles found in souvenir stores fall into the last category. However, they are not "authentic" if an outsider just "made them up."
A commercial website. Markets the carving of Walter Harris (Chief Geel), Chuck Heit and Dustin Heit. One page is devoted to the hereditary Gitxsan chief and carver Walter Harris. Together with Gitxsan Earl Munroe, he carved the totem poles located outside Vancouver Airport (right). Harris was one of the founders of the 'Ksan Heritage Village: "K'san was created to counter the damage dun by 100 years of brutal colonial assimilation. Throughout the 19th century the west coast of Canada had been ransacked by collectors and museums from around the world. They robbed graves and homes and dead bodies for anything and everything. Very few traditional objects remained in Indian possession."
In many cases it is expressed through other forms of totemism.
In the central highlands of Mexico the Toltecs were dominantfrom the 10th to the 12th century with their major city at Tollan(Tula). Itzas arrived at Chichén about 918, and ToltecChichén was not destroyed until about 1250. A Mixtec legendtells of a ruler named Eight-Deer Ocelot-Claw, who succeeded hisfather as king of Tilantongo at age 19 in 1030, won several battles,married many wives and sired numerous children, went to Tollan,and tried to set up a bureaucratic empire at Tutupec by unitingit with Mixteca Alta and Baja. Eight-Deer had the men of the royalfamilies he conquered sacrificed, and he or his sons married theirwidows and daughters. When the ruler of Xipe-Bundle died in 1047,Eight-Deer was concerned that some of his relatives would tryto rule the city. So he allied himself with the Toltec Four-Tigerand sacrificed his half-brother Twelve-Earthquake. However, hislittle empire soon failed, and in 1063 Eight-Deer was defeated,captured and sacrificed.
Veteran's Totem Pole, Victoria.Photo: Veterans Care Society
No longer online. A governmental website. One page is on a totem pole called the "Heart of Canada Totem Pole" that was sponsored by the Canadian Forest Service (right). The 9.14 meter totem pole was carved by the Haida artist Reg Davidson and the 539 year old red cedar tree came from the forests of Haida Gwaii. The totem pole was toured across Canada so that all Canadians could take part in painting it. Ironically, it was planned as the centerpiece of the 2003 World Forestry Congress exhibit in Quebec. Canada celebrates the art of totem poles yet continues to allow the global forest industry to exterminate its ancient cedar trees for commercial wood products thereby destroying the basis of Northwest Coast art. Available in French. From Natural Resources Canada.
Painting by Gordon Miller. (Click to enlarge) Museum of Civilzation
When Ahuitzotl died in 1502, the nobles had several outstandingcandidates to choose from for their next king. Nezahualpilli warnedthat the empire was overextended and that they needed an experiencedstatesman. They elected Moteuczoma Xocoyotl (Montezuma II), the34-year-old son of Axayacatl. Moteuczoma was known for his aristocraticattitudes and may even have promised to favor the nobility, forhe began his reign by dismissing all the commoners who had workedin the government under Ahuitzotl. The former king had chosenmany commoners for their abilities, but Moteuczoma refused evento hire his own half-brothers. Children of slave mothers weredefinitely rejected, and the only other necessary requirementbesides nobility seems to have been their height. Moteuczoma hadbeen found cleaning the temple when he was elected, and he wasan ascetic disciplinarian who favored strict punishments. He evensent people to bribe judges and punished those who succumbed tothe temptation. Once he was surrounded by the nobility, the newking ordered that all those who had served Ahuitzotl were to beexecuted.
"The First Totem Pole." Illustration by Christian White
The theory of cultural interchange between Polynesia and the Northwest Coast was early expounded by the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl, who visited Bella Coola in the late 1930s where he elaborated his belief that Polynesians had first come there from Southeast Asia before sailing westward across the Pacific: "All the early explorers pointed out the similarities between the people of New Zealand and the people of British Columbia. The physical types. The similarity in the canoes. The similarity of the maori (statues) and the Northwest totem poles." An example of the extraordinary cedar poles created by the indigenous inhabitants of Bella Coola is shown in the photo (right).