Six-figure totem with thunderbird at top - just under 12 ft. Original paint; est. last qtr. 19th cty. Collected by Marilyn Carter, author of Legends, Tales & Totems of Alaska. Came out of a front yard. She had cut into four pieces and brought back in the backseat of her car - in storage ever since. We put back together. Just the right size to be impressive in the great room.
Description: Totem #2: The style appears to be West Coast. The artist has used a more primitive chainsaw technique. Carving style is similar to Don Colp.
There are 4 separate regions related to Northwest Coastal Art/Carving styles and techniques.
Northern Style: The pre-dominant tribes in this area are Tlingit, Haida and Coast Tsimshian.
Mid-Coast Style: The pre-dominant tribe is the Kwakwaka'wakw.
West Coast Style: The pre-dominant tribes are the Nuu-chah-nulth and Makah on the Olympic Peninsula.
South Coast Style: Comprised of the Coast Salish and many of the tribes in the Seattle and Portland area.
Each of these styles have similar design elements; however, there are various strong and subtle differences that can help to identify them. The two northern styles, North Coast and Mid-Coast, tend to have more angular and dramatic features. The West Coast and South Coast styles tend to have softer features, and less dramatic angles and lines.
Totem poles are read from the bottom to the top. In this totem, the base figure also appears to be a Humpback Whale. Technique is very much like that used by Don Colp.
The next figure is unknown. Either part of the head is missing or has been painted green like the Beaver above it so there is confusion as to what it was. Regarding the figure above Whale, if the green colored area is related to the brown colored area, it is still not clear what the figure could be.
The next figure up is Beaver. They represent a hardworking individual, industrious and dedicated to the task at hand. The primary indicator is the folded tail that is broad and flat with the cut crosshatching.
Above Beaver is Raven acting as the communicator to Bear and possibly even to the top figure, which is either Eagle or Thunderbird.
Bear sits on top of Raven, placing it closer to the top figure. The sequence of figures indicates that it may describe an individual or family. Hardworking Beaver, playful Raven, who is all about making a game out of anything, and then tenacious Bear. Bear also represents the human element, with its weaknesses and failings. Bear is also a guardian spirit, so it could stand for protection, especially protecting the child within all of us.
At the top of this pole is Eagle or Thunderbird. It is hard to determine due to lack of detail. There is a fierceness to the design, so it could very easily be Thunderbird. Thunderbird is highly intelligent and proud. They also possess supernatural powers and control the elements.
Because of the carving style (using a chainsaw and lack of detail) it is difficult to determine the relationship or purpose to the pole. It could be simply decorative, or it could be for a family or individual and represent traits and aspects of the family or individual. The unknown figure above the whale is confusing. It has aspects of Raven but lacks the head above the beak, so it cannot be determined how it relates to either Whale or Beaver.
PERIOD: Est Last quarter 19th century
SIZE: Just under 12'