Thursday, November 26, 2009

Totem Pole Souvenir Replicas

Last year for Thanksgiving, Scott D. wrote a series of posts about related souvenir buildings. He included the Pilgrim monument in Provincetown; Plymouth Rock souvenirs and even the town of Plymouth. I also wrote about historic Jamestown Virginia and miniature replicas there. This year, however, I had difficulty finding additional Thanksgiving-related souvenirs to write about. So, in honor of our Native American friends who helped the Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving, let’s explore something iconic in their culture – the totem pole. There is a mini replica of the Totem pole at Pioneer Square in Seattle. The souvenir stands 4 inches high and was made for the BPOE (The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks), a 141-year-old fraternal lodge. On the back of the pole are the words, “Complements of Seattle Lodge No. 92 BPOE. “ The base reads, “Totem Pole Pioneer Square Seattle. Seattle Wantsyouvin 1915. The real tribal history of the Indian.” The final base panel has an elk’s head with the words “Cervus Alces” which means elk. I’ve seen another version with the front base panel depicting the head of the Indian Chief Seattle. Most monument replicas seem to be made with a copper/bronze finish, but some have been repainted. The souvenir totem pole has 6 faces and animals on the front. The real Pioneer Square Totem Pole has a storied history and not a very respectful one. This Totem was stolen from Native Americans. During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800’s, Seattle was a center for travel to Alaska. In 1899, a group of prominent businessmen stole a 60-foot totem pole from a Tlingit village in Alaska and placed it in Pioneer Place Park. The totem pole stood there until an arsonist destroyed the pole in 1938. The city then sent the pieces back to the Tlingit tribe who carved a new one and gave it to Seattle (after finally getting paid for the one that was originally stolen). In addition to the totem pole, a wrought-iron Victorian pergola and a bust of Chief Seattle were added to the park in 1909.Native Americans of the Northwest Coast carved totem poles to document important events, family history, and to identify a family or a clan. The Seattle totem belonged to the Raven Clan (English surname Kinninook) and had been carved in about the year 1790 to honor a woman named Chief-of-All-Women who drowned in the Nass River while on a journey to visit an ailing sister. The top carving was that of a raven, which in Tlingit mythology did everything, knew everything, and seemed to be everywhere at once. In Seattle, the raven faced north up 1st Avenue. I have also seen totem pole replicas from Alaska and Canada produced in metal, resin, wood and stone. Do you know of other totem pole replicas?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi, I recently found a small, silver coloured metal totem pole (about 3 & 1/4"tall) at a car boot sale. All it has stamped on it is a tiny "IS" underneath the lowest figure which appears to be a monkey? It is very similar to the silver one you have on this page except most of the characters are different, the detail is spectacular & I was wondering if you could tell me anything about it?

Kind Regards


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