December 23, 2015

Do Dominican totem poles exist?

People are still talking about Miss Universe Canada's costume:

Miss Universe Canada's totem pole dress shocks First Nations people

Torontonian Paola Nunuz Valdez wore the offending dress at this week’s Miss Universe contestIn a statement, Valdez said the dress was a "misunderstanding" and that the design was meant to refer to her own heritage as a Dominican, not to reflect on Canada's aboriginal culture.

She was born in the Dominican Republic, which shares with Haiti the large Caribbean island east of Cuba. While totem poles may exist there, they don't play as prominent role in the culture as they do on Canada's west coast.

Callingbull, in a Facebook post, suggested Miss Universe Canada hire a cultural consultant in the future to avoid hanging an important symbol from a future contestant's crotch.

She also criticized the organization's attempt to cover up its error.

"I'd like to see these so called 'west coast Dominican Republic Totem Poles.' They are really trying to protect themselves and didn't even have the heart to simply apologize," she wrote.

One totem pole online

Someone posted this link and image on Facebook:

Dominican Carnival Totem Pole YAGU-TO2Hand carved and painted Dominican Carnival Totem Pole. Made from the palm trees leaf stem which is called Yauga (pronounced "Jagua").

Approximate size: 8.5x1.5

To which I responded:

This kind of proves the point. There's only one item online that matches a "Dominican totem pole" search. Totem poles aren't a part of that culture or there'd be more of them.

Also, the fact that the item is labeled "Dominican" doesn't mean it's authentically Dominican. It could've been made in Asia for all we know.

More important, it looks nothing like Miss Canada's loincloth. If it is authentically Dominican, her costume isn't.

In fact, the Dominican Creations company is headquartered in Quebec and says it'sServing Canada, United States and the Dominican RepublicThis makes it less likely the company is selling genuine Dominican artifacts. And again, even if this pole were genuine, it doesn't look like the pole on the dress.

Final comment

Someone else added this comment on Valdez's dress:Ummm...totally not the same as Dominican 'totem poles'. And last time I checked she was representing Canada. This would imply that she is misusing First Nations totem culture.Yes, it's ridiculous to say she's honoring her Dominican heritage when that has nothing to do with her role as Miss Canada. Plus her raven costume and the totem pole have nothing to do with the Dominican Republic.

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