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Vancouver Island Totem Pole


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13'2" totem by Don Colp. Inside or outside. Born in Alberta, Canada in 1932, Don Colp grew up on a farm with his parents and four younger brothers. Growing up in the post-depression era with no money for toys, Colp and his brothers used their imaginations to entertain themselves. It was in these early years that Don began carving objects with a knife. He was soon carving chains and animals, making carving his favorite hobby over the next several years. Don left home at 15 to relieve the burden of five boys on his family, and went to work on a large farm. Over the years, he held several jobs. He sold for Fuller Brush, worked for the railroad, drove a truck, and was a civilian for the Canadian Army. In the mid 60s, Don decided to start his own business. After buying a truck and a chain saw, he opened a sawmill and began to cut pulpwood. It was at this time that he set out on the dangerous challenge of carving with a chain saw. The carvings were crude in the beginning, but their novelty soon drew a following. With his chain saw carving business booming, Don sold the sawmill in 1972 so he could carve full time. Inspired by watching Henry Stettlebauer carve works of art in a matter of minutes on a television show, Don set out to work on speeding up his own time. Still working with the older, bigger chain saws, Don soon was able to carve a small bear in a mere eight minutes. Don learned six months later, after meeting and becoming friends with Henry Stettlebauer, that the piece had actually taken all day. Through the magic of television, the show had been edited so that it seemed to take only minutes. Don got the last laugh, however. He was offered a generous contract from Poulan Chain Saw Company in California and traveled with them for 15 years, conducting carving demonstrations all over the United States. Description: Totem #1 by Don Colp. The style appears to be West Coast, using a primitive chainsaw technique. 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 appears to be a whale. There is no apparent 'dorsal' fin in this carving, so it appears to be a Humpback whale. The large size of the mouth would also indicate the Humpback whales that frequent the Northwest coast region. Humpback Whale is not often included on Totem Pole designs. The next figure up appears to be a 'Bear' although the ears are missing. The figure is sitting on its hind quarters and showing its teeth. This is a traditional posture for Bear. The flat nose also fits a stylized Bear design. In the side view, there is an indication of a short snout which would also indicate Bear. Bear is a powerful Being with Strength, Courage and Fierceness, among its characteristics. The figure above Bear appears to be 'Raven.' In Coastal Mythology, Raven is a trickster and also acts as a messenger. He would carry someone's prayers up to the creator. Raven has a long beak. Here it is presented rounded over to indicate length. Often, the beak is a separate element, carved and mounted to the Totem. When added to the pole, the beak then becomes a prominent feature that gives a better indicating as to what that figure represents. Raven is also above Bear, just below Thunderbird, indicating communication between the two beings. Above Raven, and the dominant element of this pole, is Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a fierce being and sits at the right hand of Creator. Thunderbird is the senior deity, next to Creator, and has power over all the other deities, similar to an Arch-Angel. It is a possibility that this pole is related to a Thunderbird clan. Thunderbird can create a typhoon or bring a healing rain. It carries Lightning Snakes to kill the Orca when necessary. More attention has been paid to this element of the carving and includes separate, outstretched wings that have been attached to the pole. This gives more purpose to this element of the pole, indicating that its power is needed to be successful. The carving is done by chainsaw so the design is heavy and blocky, with deep cuts stressing key features. The carving style stresses the strength of the individual elements and gives a more powerful presence. The pole is more of a decorative design than related to a family or individual/ The fierce Thunderbird is the primary element and Bear is in a supportive, subordinate position.

PERIOD: First Half 20th Century

ORIGIN: British Columbia, Canada

SIZE: 13'2"

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