19th century adz-carved cedar totem. 76"H x 12" - hollowed-out back. Old repaint; estimate at the time of transfer, 1920s.
Description: Totem #11, Short wall totem with three figures, Painted.
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 Maka 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.
The bottom figure is holding Frog. This figure is unknown to me. There is a hooked nose or beak over an open mouth with a protruding tongue. A short hooked beak would indicate an owl totem. If that is the case, then the horned ears would make sense. The horns are indicated by the yellow area painted into what could be the ears. I don’t really understand the green around the mouth, unless that indicates the eating of the frog, which would be a little unusual. Assuming that this figure could be Owl, and the yellow on the ears are horns, this figure would represent a great horned owl. Owl represents wisdom, knowing beforehand, or intuitive perception. It also represents the approach of death and darkness. It can represent the ancestral spirits.
Frog represents transition, living in two worlds, and possibly a supernatural connection. The back half of Frog is missing. This could be connected to the green area around the mouth, but that is unclear. If Frog was giving knowledge to this being, the head would face the other way, like they were having a conversation.
Above this being is Raven. This design is pretty clear in the representation. Raven is a trickster and mischievous. It gets into all sorts of situations, but is a communicator to the Spirit world. Raven is one of the most important beings in Northwest Coastal Mythology. He is a Chief Spirit, responsible for giving the world the Sun, Moon, and Stars. He is a relentless schemer, always trying to get into one thing or the other, and loves practical jokes. Lustful, impulsive, cunning and shameless are some of the terms connected to Raven. He also has the power of prophecy and is a supporter of the Shaman. If we look at that connection, then Owl would make more sense on this pole, as it also is a being connected to Shamanism. Frog would then also indicate the ability to move between the natural and the supernatural.
PERIOD: 19th century
ORIGIN: Northwest, United States
SIZE: 76"H x 12"