Manataka American Indian Council

 


 

THE FIRST TOTEM POLE
Written by Rosa Bell
Illustrated by Christian White

 

Many, many years ago a Haida family lived in a village called Yan. In that family there was a boy named Sta-th. He was one of the Eagle clan. He wore an Eagle carving around his neck.

Sta-th's mother was called Koon-jaat. She was also from the Eagle clan. Her hat had an eagle on top of it.  Sta-th's father's name was An-o-wat. An-o-wat was from a different clan. He was one of the raven clan. He wore a Raven crest on his clothes.

One day An-o-wat was fixing their fishing canoe. Sta-th went over to help his father. Soon the canoe was ready. An-o-wat started to take the canoe down to the water. Sta-th asked, "May I go, Father? May I go with you?"

An-o-wat said, "Yes, I will take you. We'll go as far as Rose Spit. I want to see if there are any more holes in the canoe to fix up."

Sta-th jumped into the canoe. It was a beautiful day for a ride.

The water was very calm. The canoe moved smoothly through the water. An-o-wat was glad to see that there were no holes in the canoe. The canoe was now ready for fishing.

By the time they got to Rose Spit, the sun had begun to set. They wanted to get home before dark, so they started back.

Sta-th was fascinated with the water. He bent over the side of the canoe. Sta-th watched the clear blue-green water as they traveled. He saw big crabs and pretty starfish. Jellyfish flashed here and there.

Suddenly, Sta-th shouted, "Stop, Father, stop! Look into the water."  Sta-th is pointing at something in the water.

They both looked down. They saw the most beautiful village. It looked like their own village. There were lots of longhouses and many canoes. However this village was different from theirs. It had tall, tall poles. These poles had beautiful carvings on them.

They looked at this village for a long time. An-o-wat looked carefully at the poles. He saw a raven and eagle carved on the poles. He saw a bear and a whale, too.

Soon it grew too dark to see. They decided it was best not to tell anyone about what they had seen. People might not believe their story.

The next day, An-o-wat and Sta-th went into the forest. They were looking for a big cedar tree. An-o-wat wanted to make a pole like the one in the underwater village. He wanted to show his pole to the people of Yan. Then he knew they would believe him.

At last, they found a good cedar tree.

An-o-wat and Sta-th began to carve the pole. An-o-wat put a raven on top. Then he carved a strong bear and a killer whale. That night they shared their secret with Koon-jaat.

Each day they worked long and hard on their pole. It took many, many days to finish it.

At last the big day came. They were ready to take the pole to the village.

An-o-wat called a meeting with his family. His brothers and sisters came. His aunts and uncles came. His grandfathers and grandmothers came, too. They all came to hear what An-o-wat had to say.

A n-o-wat told them the story. Sta-th told them what he had seen at the bottom of the sea. Then An-o-wat showed them the pole.

An-o-wat called for a village meeting. Everyone thought that the Eagle clan should raise the pole. An-o-wat and his family would have to pay them.

An-o-wat asked the Eagle clan for help. He asked them to help bring the pole to the village. The people of Yan saw them pulling the beautiful pole. They were very excited.

The next day, An-o-wat and Sta-th dressed in their best clothes. They both felt proud of the work they had done. Many people were invited to come and see the pole.

An-o-wat and his family met their guests at the beach. They welcomed the guests with a song.

People came from all over the islands. They came to see the first totem pole.

All the people went into the longhouse for a feast. An-o-wat's family gave gifts to the Eagle clan.

They gave songs and dances. They gave drums and rattles. They gave canoes and animal skins, too

There was singing and dancing long into the night.  The sun was rising as the people went home. Everyone was thinking of what they might carve. 

This is how the Haida people began to carve totem poles. This is the story of the first totem pole.

Credits:

Written by Rosa Bell
Illustrated by Christian White

http://www.virtualmuseum.ca

 

Read more about Totem Poles

 


 

 

WOLF AND THE RAVEN: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska

By Viola E. Garfield and Linn A. Forrest

The spectacular totem poles of British Columbia and Alaska, on which appear birds, animals, and unrecognizable creatures, are found nowhere else in the world. To save specimens of this new-abandoned American Indian craft and make them accessible to Alaska visitors, the United States Forest Service in 1938 began placing Tlingit and Haida totem poles in natural settings near Ketchikan, Wrangel, and Sitka. University of Washington Press, October 19765, Soft Cover, 176pp. $19.95

Proceeds from book purchases go to support the nonprofit, cultural, educational and religious purposes of the Manataka American Indian Council.  Thank you for your support.

Notice: Occasionally books may be discontinued or out of stock without prior notice. With written permission, your order may be filled from the 'shelf'.  Shelf books are new, but some may be slightly discolored or sale tags may be still attached. Fulfillment rate: 98.6%.


 

ALASKA'S TOTEM POLES

By Pat Kramer 

Through the mists of Alaska's rain forest, totem poles have stood watch for untold generations. Imbued with mystery to outsider eyes, the fierce, carved symbols silently spoke of territories, legends, memorials, paid debts. Today many of these cultural icons are preserved for the public to enjoy in heritage parks and historical centers. And, after nearly a century of repression, totem carving among Alaska's Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples is flourishing again. In Alaska's Totem Poles, readers learn about the history and use of totems, clan crests, symbolism, and more. A special section describes where to go to view totems. And foreword writer David A. Boxley offers the unique perspective of a Native Alaskan carver who has been a leader in the renaissance. Alaska Northwest Books, May 2004, Soft Cover, 96pp.  $19.95

Proceeds from book purchases go to support the nonprofit, cultural, educational and religious purposes of the Manataka American Indian Council.  Thank you for your support.

Notice: Occasionally books may be discontinued or out of stock without prior notice. With written permission, your order may be filled from the 'shelf'.  Shelf books are new, but some may be slightly discolored or sale tags may be still attached. Fulfillment rate: 98.6%.

 

 

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