Monday, 23 April 2018

T is for Thuja Plicata and Totems ...




I am living 'down the road' from the City of Totems - Duncan ... it is not a city at all, but a town of 5,000 - in its early life it was classified as a city - and that's stuck.


The upper part of the body of
"The Feast" ... the bald eagle stands proud



I've iphoned a couple of totems in the 'city' the other day - not very good records ... but I'll take myself on a tour to see the 40+ poles in the town.  My photos aren't brilliant - but you'll get an idea and I will elaborate on the meanings of some of them anon.




Thuja Plicata

Thuja Plicata - the Western Red Cedar tree - known as the Mother Tree - is the tree of choice for these First Nation carvers.


For thousands of years, cedar sustained the peoples of the Northwest by providing material for everyday items: ceremonial masks, medicine, transportation, housing, fishing nets, food bowls, clothing, firewood, storage boxes and more...


However in 1986 ... Duncan was designated as the City of Totems ... being found in the Cowichan Valley, traditional home of the Quw'utsun' People.


A fuller version of "The Feast"
- with an historical caboose behind
In fact ... the totems on display in Duncan represent carvers from across the Pacific Northwest, Quebec and New Zealand ... and bear witness to the proud heritage of carving amongst the First Nations people.



A Totem pole
in Thunderbird
Park, Vancouver


I will later on go into more detail about these amazing poles ... but for now - the First Nations relied on oral tradition to record their history, the carved totem poles created a permanent record of their lineage and historical events.



Ceremonies are performed at each pole raising ... these have come to be a combination of traditions and protocols from both native and (today) non-native communities ...



... and remind us that there is a spiritual connection between man and tree, that we are all aspects of a greater whole ...


That is T for Thuja Plicata and Totems ... from Aspects by a British 'girl' in Canada ...


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

46 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Yet another lovely informative post.
'there is a spiritual connection between man and tree, that we are all aspects of a greater whole ...' resonates so strongly with my tree-loving self. Thank you.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Yes, another tree-hugger here! Intrigued by the NZ presence (though appreciate the ancestral reference and purpose is very similar). There is something powerful when standing by one of these - having so many around would be quite something! YAM xx

Joanne said...

I really liked the totems I saw out at Vancouver's park. Some of the art is quite detailed. Lots of symbolism

Botanist said...

Duncan doesn't look like much when you drive through on the highway, but get off the main road and the town centre is charming. BTW - have you yet visited Beacon Hill Park and seen the world's tallest totem pole, overlooking Dallas road? That is an awe-inspiring sight.

Chatty Crone said...

Very interesting - I love totem poles and how they are made and what they stand for. My kids have done projects about Indians and totem poles.

Jean Davis said...

The native people have created some beautiful art there with the trees. It's great that the town features them for all to see and learn from.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC - thanks ... I'm not sure where that quote came from ... I must have copied it or adjusted a similar quote - but it made so much sense ... and tree lovers are excellent to have as blogging friends ...

@ Yamini - oh great ... tree huggers of the world unite. I wondered about the NZ link ... but could be someone who emigrated or perhaps the NZ aboriginals also pole carve. I'm still amazed at all the trees around ...

@ Joanne - I have to get to Stanley Park ... where the Totems are when I get over to Vancouver. Discovering more about the art and culture will be interesting: lots of symbolism as you say ...

@ Ian - I know it doesn't look much does ... and so far I haven't explored much ... but now the weather has changed I shall feel like walking around. I haven't spent a day in Victoria yet - and have to find the places to park ... so will do that - and also visit Beacon Hill Park = that area I know is stunning to see ... as too that totem pole. I'll get down there soon ... thanks for the tip ...

@ Sandie - if you've had your kids studying them for a project - that must have opened your eyes a little ... I think I'll find it all interesting ...

@ Jean - yes it will be so interesting finding out more about the totems in the town and their art, culture and traditions ... and having specialist tours will help.

Thanks so much everyone - lovely to see you ... just as the sun fades behind the mountains and away from the tall trees on our first hot day!! Cheers Hilary

M. Denise C. said...

Wow. Those are beautiful totem poles, H! I have always loved the idea of a totem and totem poles. I love that word, totem, too!! Cheers, D

DeeDee said...

The pictures are lovely but a bit creepy too.

Sorry, i have been unwell last week and could not comment on your posts.

Tongue Twister's

D.G. Hudson said...

The totems in the Pacific Northwest are one of my favorite things about this region. Emily Carr painted a lot of the totems, faded and old ones as well as new in some of her paintings. Also the Royal British Columbia museum did have an excellent display of many totems and a long house as well. I hope it still is there.

Nilanjana Bose said...

The totem poles are stunning and imposing! Loved your photos. The connection between trees and humans is fundamental, we forget that at our own peril...

Patsy said...

They're impressive pieces of artwork and it's nice to know they have a spiritual meaning too.

Keith's Ramblings said...

I must confess I'd never given totems a moments thought until that is I read this fascinating piece! Now I need to know more. Thanks for stirring my interest, Hilary.

Welcome to Keith's Ramblings!

Kim Blades said...

Hi Hilary. There definitely is a spiritual connection between man and trees. This history and meaning of totems is a fascinating topic and I look forward to learning more about them from you. Have a great week. Kim x

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love the bald eagle totem, in particular!

I think your photos turned out well, Hilary! Thanks for teaching us about Thuja Plicata and totems.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

They are beautiful works of art and history.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's one thing I miss about living in the Pacific NW. Totems and that style of artwork.

Kali Delamagente said...

I like totems, the idea that the family history is recorded proudly on a pole and then displayed for all to see. Good choice for T

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Denise - I've never looked into totem poles and their significance before ... so this was interesting to write up ...

@ DeeDee - they are lovely - just different representations of the way we look at art. No worries - I hope you'll be better soon.

@ DG - now I've had my first look into totems and their significance ... I too want to know more. I hope I'll get over to the Vancouver BC museum ... but first I'll get to the Victoria one ... and also see the 'big totem' in the park downtown ... Also I must check out about long houses ...

I didn't want to put too much about Emily Carr into these A-Z posts ... as she appears in a couple ... but I'll write a full post or two about her anon ...

@ Nila - They are as you so rightly describe 'stunning and imposing' - and yes trees are fundamental to us, as living beings ...

@ Patsy - there's an awful lot to each pole - so I'll take a slow walk around looking at them ...

@ Keith - I'm afraid I was rather like you ... it was only when I wanted to write this up that I was able to see what each pole was telling us. So thank you ... there'll be more about totems ...

@ Kim - there are many connections between man and trees - and the totems bring that spiritualness out for us. Thanks I'll get to write up more about the poles and their significances ...

@ Elizabeth - yes I must get the other half of the bald eagle totem - so I can show it off better and in its entirety. Thanks so much ... Thuja Plicata certainly stand up!

@ Arleen - yes they are beautiful art with an intriguing history ...

@ Diane - I can see you'd miss that style of art ... it is quite extraordinary ...

@ Kali - yes I hadn't realised that this was a way of recording history - family, or cultural - on these poles ... now I must find out more ...

Thanks so much - great to have your interest ... so there'll be more about totems anon - cheers Hilary

Emily Bloomquist said...

I wonder if being among so many of them feels more like a museum or a graveyard. I like your pictures.

The message "that we are all aspects of a greater whole" is a great one! Imagine a world where everyone believed that.

Emily In Ecuador

Susan Scott said...

This is wonderful Hilary thank you! I love totems! Your photos are excellent. Wonderful record from so long ago and that they've been preserved and homoured. I remember a totem built from stones on the beach on Keurbooms. Granted, not to stay there long.

cleemckenzie said...

Totems are so impressive. I remember the museum in Alaska that has a room filled with them. I felt like a much shorter person than usual walking among them. I think you photos are great, Hilary. You caught their essence.

Here's to U!

Liz A. said...

OK, so now Duncan is on the itinerary of my future Canada trip. Whenever that might be.

Rhodesia said...

Interesting, I will be looking forward to more on the totem poles. Have a good week Diane

diedre Knight said...

Hi Hilary!

"We are all aspects of a greater whole" I love that! I've always found Totems intriguing but hadn't thought of them as permanent records. So true.

Out on the prairie said...

I like to smudge with the cedar bark and purify my soul.

Kelly Steel said...

The photos are great and the post is informative, thank you Hilary!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Love the totem poles. There is art as well as story in their creation. My dad woodcarved a totem once. Someone purchased it when he was selling.

Teresa

Deborah Weber said...

What a lovely Ts to celebrate today Hilary - trees and totem poles both fill my heart with great appreciation. I love the peeks you've given us, and look forward to more.

Sandra Cox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra Cox said...

Wonderful post. I love the totems and the way you drew the connection between us and nature.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Wow, wow, wow, I found this post awesome and would love to see them in person but doubt it will happen

Jz said...

I only got to see a couple of totem poles when I was in the Pacific Northwest... I am rather envious of your city of 40-some.
I hope we get to see the pictures when you do your big tour!

Debby Gies said...

Such rich history from our Native forebearers. Thanks for this Hilary. :) x

Lynda Dietz said...

I have always liked the look of totem poles. Such an interesting art genre because of its traditions and spiritual connections.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Emily - they are spread around Duncan ... so a few in one part and then others and then individual ones - so no, not a graveyard or a museum. Yes that phrase seems to have rung true ... I'm not sure where I got it from ... or adapted it slightly ...

@ Susan - so pleased you enjoyed this post. There's a lot of history here - which you'll hear more about. That totem on the beach at Keurbooms ... must have been brilliant to see ... out of place and not lasting long, albeit built of stone - there has to be a maxim for that ...

@ Lee - yes I'd like to get to Alaska ... but can't see that happening - however I can see the ones here ... I'm sure you felt very small - these weren't that tall ... but they were 'solid' and imposing ...

@ Liz - that's good ... the totems, the nature around here is lovely to see ...

@ Diane - ok more will be forthcoming on totems ...

@ Diedre - I'm not at all sure where that phrase came from ... but I'm happy everyone is taking it on board ... yes I was extremely happy to find out that they were a record of their lives, rather than the oral tradition that we have ...

@ Steve - yes you've given me something else to think about ... and I did check it out briefly ...

@ Kelly - so glad you enjoyed the photos and info ...

@ Teresa - I think I now love totems ... now I understand them better. How interesting to know your father carved a totem, that he then sold ... I hope you have a record and a photo ...

@ Deborah - thanks ... trees and totems did seem to match for 'T' - and thank you re the peeks into life here ...

@ Sandra - thanks ... I do like to connect the dots - though suspect the idea came from the First Nations details ...

@ Jo-Anne - that's wonderful ... thank you so much - I'll be posting more, so you can have another look then ...

@ Jz - there's a lot here with information boards - which help, but I have a booklet ... and will take the tour sometime soon ...

@ Debby - yes they really are our forebears having been here since soon after the Ice Age ...

@ Lynda - they are an interesting art genre, and cultural genre - since it's a record of life ... tradition and spiritual ...

Thanks so much for visiting and I'm so glad the totems were a hit - I now look forward to writing more - cheers Hilary

Marcy said...

Very nice photos! Another item for my to visit and to see list.

David Gascoigne said...

During my recent visit to Duncan we didn’t stay long because everyone wanted to move on, but on a previous visit my wife and I spend a good deal of time admiring the totems and absorbing the significance of them. The interpretive boards are well done and enable someone from outside the First Nations culture to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the role these sacred objects played in the lives of the people who erected them.

quietspirit said...

These totems look impressive. Thank you for sharing this information.

Juliet Batten said...

I enjoy seeing the big cedar tree and discovering its name 'thuja', because that is the name of a homeopathic remedy that's great for the flu. No doubt it comes from this tree. I always learn something new here.
Nice to be catching up after time travelling and then having no power after a storm here in Auckland.

Lynn said...

I think your photos are just fine! Interesting to find another aspect of earlier residents' lives. And still going on - totem carving.

Pamela Wright said...

I've always been fascinated by the meaning and spirituality behind the carving of totem poles so really enjoyed this post. Great photos.

Rhonda Albom said...

The poles of the First Nations people are very elaborate. I have seen a collection of them in Vancouver.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marcy - that's great you're hoping to visit ...

@ David - I can imagine ... after all wildlife is wildlife. I was fascinated to be able to read the boards, and find out more later on via a totem booklet I'd bought - made more sense to get a bit more of background.

I'll be writing up a some more on the First Nations and on the totems to give a bit more rudimentary understanding of their culture and traditions carried down through the centuries - something I need to know about, or at least have a glimpse about ...

@ Cecelia - the totems in Duncan are extraordinary ...

@ Juliet - I gather Thuja has healing properties ... and fascinating that the term is similar 'down under' - Linnaeus did us a favour with his binomial nomenclature ...
Glad that power storm didn't affect you too much ... they can do so much damage ...

@ Pam - I'm looking forward to writing up my posts on your suggestion of the meaning and spirituality behind the totems ...

@ Rhonda - I'm sure you've seen the older ones ... I hope to get to see those too ...

Thanks to you all - so glad you've enjoyed the brief note on totems ... more anon - cheers Hilary

DMS said...

How fascinating. Sounds like a fabulous place to visit. I agree that we have a spiritual connection with trees. :)
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jess ... it's a very small town - but the information boards make the totems understandable to us ... we can check them out and get some idea of their way of life ... and yes that spiritual connection with trees is exceedingly relevant to us all ... cheers Hilary