I had the opportunity to attend the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February 2010. Ethan (my bro), Adri (my lovely sis-in-law), and myself, along with four other friends, flew from three different areas of the United States and met for five days of fun.
We had one off day with no events scheduled. We opted to tour Vancouver a bit and get to know the host city. In so doing, we traveled to Stanley Park, a huge regional park (bigger than Central Park in New York City). One of the attractions in Stanley Park are the totems. Contrary to what most people think, most totems are not religious icons. The totems seen here are mortuary poles or house front poles; the first being a grave marker of sorts, the second outlining the family lineage.
I loved the angle and vibrancy of color in this photograph. This is the top of the Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole. If you can see a birdlike quality to the artistry, it’s because he was the Raven Chief. As the original totems decayed due to the rainfall of the Pacific Northwest, the board behind the head represents the area where the chief’s remains were interred. I ended up liking this photo so much I blew it up, matted and framed it, and displayed it in my home.
When I put together the coffee table book for our band of travelers, I indulged my very nerdy side and did research on the totems so that twenty years from now when we flip through our books, we know what we were looking at.
Chief Wakas’ Pole is an example of a talking stick, portraying the life story of the chief. I loved that the top of the pole looked down on us at an angle. Again, the vibrancy of the colors is incredible. The original pole was large enough that when it stood in front of the chief’s home, you entered the house through the raven’s beak at the base.
The image below shows the base of two of the totems… the one toward the back has the aforementioned beak that was the entrance to Chief Wakas’ home. The pole in the foreground is the base of the Sky Chief Pole whose artistry represents the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth history; the base shows the Man of Knowledge. I don’t know what the jar he’s holding represents.
All in all, I found the carvings to be fascinating… and when combined with the vibrant paints, they were rustically beautiful. That the totems are tied to the history of an indigenous people made this history major enjoy them even more.
All of these photographs were shot without aid of filter or flash on my Canon 5D using a Canon 28-80mm or 100-300mm lens.