Object 1. Totem Pole Thunderbird House Post, British Columbia, Canada

May 28, 2021


My first object is a picture of a Totem Pole located in Stanley Park, Vancouver, which I have taken when I was on a roundtrip in Canada. One of the six First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, called Kwakwaka’wakw created the Totem Poles. This object is a replica Thunderbird, created by Charlie James, and belongs to the Thunderbird clan, a family from Vancouver Island.1 To get more information, I went into the visitor center and learned that the material used is red cedar, painted in colors of black, red, blue, green, white and yellow. Each Totem Pole can be divided into 3 sections, each of those having their own designated figures. The top section shows mythical creatures or monsters that can depict a tribe, as in my object, the Thunderbird. 2

This object links to the prompt because even though I got a lot of background information what each of the figures means, this doesn’t signify that I got an in-depth understanding of how it is embedded in Indigenous culture. Since we acquire knowledge from the interaction of others through family, peers or experts who learned from their ancestors the knowledge each Pole has in terms of belief and cultural identity cannot be easily transferred.

This object is particularly interesting for this exhibition because through the interaction with an indigenous person (knower), I was able to acquire the knowledge that each Totem Pole traces back a family’s ancestry, verifies the rights, and privileges the family had. The Totem Pole in Stanley Park should not be recognized as art, but rather acknowledged as an established part of the broader community to ensure that this knowledge passes on to a new generation.

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