July 16, 2011

Alberta tribe doesn't want totem pole

Another totem-pole story points out the folly of lumping all Indians together.

New Jasper totem pole angers area First Nations group

By Lana CuthbertsonParks Canada erected a striking new totem pole in Jasper on Saturday but the monument is causing frustration for a local First Nations group.

The new pole was carved by two brothers from the Haida nation, which is hundreds of kilometres away, off the north coast of B.C.

Chief Nathan Matthew of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council said there is no cultural significance for the Jasper region in the totem pole.

“We have no problem with the Haida, we respect them and they produce iconic, world class art,” Matthew said. “But the local First Nations groups should be represented.”
Comment:  Most people associate the entire Pacific Northwest with totem poles. It's a stretch to include Alberta in that region, but that's apparently what the residents have done.

In response, the local tribe is saying no. "Totem poles aren't part of our culture. You're stereotyping us as if we're all the same."

In America the stereotypical choice is the Plains culture with its chiefs and tipis. In western Canada, it's the Pacific Northwest culture with its totem poles.

For more on totem poles, see Spokane Tribe Replaces "Totem" Art and Goofy Moments in GREEN LANTERN #79.

Below:  "A new totem pole is erected in Jasper, Alberta, in July 2011. It tells the story of two brothers who travel from the west coast to the Rockies."


dmarks said...

I've noticed profusion of totem poles, most custom made as lawn ornemants, found in front of houses mostly in rural areas in Michigan. I am assuming that none of the people putting them up are Natives, and certainly not from the Pacific Northwest.

A Google search on
totem poles for your yard produces many vendors, including this one. None of them appear to be Natives.

Anonymous said...

I don't think totem poles are excluded from the US stereotype either.

Plains culture is popular for other reasons. For starters, to call plains cultures anarchy would be an understatement. No other people have so devoted themselves to anarchist ideology. Secondly, there are physiognomic reasons. Plains Indians are, as a rule, taller, for starters.

dmarks said...

When did the Plains tribes lack government, or which ones did? I know that the Sioux tribes has government for ages.

Anonymous said...

I'm a card-carrying, costume wearing wannabe and I even I know this "plains cultures = anarchy" line is complete and total bullshit.

That one's not even supported by 50s Hollywood. Even the worst movies had at least had "Me Big Chief" in charge.

Anonymous said...

Anarchy in this case means simply that the Sioux for instance had a rule that one man couldn't tell another what to do.

dmarks said...

Which has nothing to do with the definition of anarchy.

I've read much on the Sioux, and don't recall anything like what this possible "wannabe" describes.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see Jasper Totem Pole Should Go.