Totem Poles

Let this book be a memorial
to the native artists of the
north Pacific Coast!

Their genius has produced monumental works of art
on a par with the most
original the world has
ever known.

M. Barbeau, 1950


Right: Totem Pole Gallery, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

Visitors in the Grand Hall of Totem Poles and Northwest Coast Art, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2009

Totem Poles by Marius Barbeau, volume I and II, 1950
Digitalized by the Canadian Museum of Civilization

"Totem Poles" was published as two volumes in 1950 in Ottawa, Canada, by the Department of Resources and Development and the National Museum of Canada. It was digitalized for an educational website by the government of Canada.

Totem Poles Vol. I This volume examines totem poles in British Columbia according to crests and topics including: The Eagle; The Shark; The Beaver, Thunderbird, The Salmon Totems, Bear Mother, The Wolf, The Killer Whale, Sea Monsters, The Raven, The Cannibal or Mosquito, The Mountain Goat, Ridicule or Discredit poles; and The White Man.

Totem Poles Vol. II This volume examines totem poles according to geographical location in British Columbia and includes additional subjects such as: Synthesis and Compilation; The Growth of Totem Pole Carving; and Conservation and Restoration.

The classic scholarly work by Marius Barbeau is a summary of his research, conducted from 1915 to 1947 on the Northwest Coast in British Columbia. Barbeau served for many years as director of the Museum of Civilization. See: Marius Barbeau.

Of great value are the book's frontispiece maps of which show the geographical location of the coastal First Nations villages. These are divided into nine distinct cultural and biogeographical areas identified as: Tlingit, Haida (Kaigani); Haida; Tsimsyan (Niska); Tsimsyan proper; Tsimsyan (Gitksan); Kwakiutl; Nootka; and Salish. Within these regions Barbeau's map identifies by number the 84 indigenous villages which produced totem poles.

Each chapter of "Totem Poles" is broken up into pdfs. Of special interest are the many photos taken by Marius Barbeau that illustrate the text. Volume One has 186 photos; Volume Two has 374 photos. The photos are of special value as in many instances they are the only remaining documentation of the ancient indigenous villages and settlements, apart from the totem poles and other cultural objects that ended up in museums and private collections across the world.

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