With a Master’s degree in anthropology, and hailing from both the K’ómoks and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw First Nations, celebrated BC artist Andy Everson is uniquely qualified to teach the importance and background of the art of totem carving. He shared his vast knowledge of the subject recently, following a totem pole tour through Thunderbird Park beside the Royal BC Museum that he gave during the Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria.

“There are a number of different types of totem poles,” he said. “The main type is a crest pole that displays your ancestry and ancestral stories.”

He said often there is a misconception that you can read a particular story just by looking at a totem.

“Really, you need to know the story first to understand the totem pole,” he said. “Totem poles are really a type of mnemonic device that helps remind the viewer about the stories and ancestral stories within a family.”

Everson said in addition to the crest poles, there are also mortuary poles (amongst the Haida Gwaii) where remains are positioned at the top of the pole. Totems can also include house posts, which support the structure of a house, and also display the crests of the particular family who resides there.

And the totems are as varied as the different Nations.

“Each tribal area has its own distinctive style,” he said. “And within each region, each artist has their own style.”

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