Tongass National Forest, National Geographic Magazine: Totem Raising Ceremony

Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of native Tlingets who danced and sang following a historic totem raising ceremony where seven poles were added to the Tlinget park in Klowock on Prince of Wales Island. People carried a pole through the town where it was carved and all helped pull on ropes to raise it into place. Tlingit, Haida, and Shimshane people came together for the historic event in southeast Alaska.

The meanings of the designs on totem poles are as varied as the cultures that make them, but totem poles were never objects of worship. Carvings may recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. Some poles celebrate cultural beliefs, but others are mostly artistic presentations. Certain types of totem poles are part of mortuary structures, and incorporate grave boxes with carved supporting poles, or recessed backs for grave boxes. Poles illustrate stories that commemorate historic persons, represent shamanic powers, or provide objects of public ridicule.

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