The Story of the Totem Pole

until April 1, 2013

The large interactive family exhibition The Story of the Totem Pole focuses Het Verhaal van de Totempaal in Museum Volkenkundeon the Indians of the Northwest Coast of the United States and Canada. International masterpieces combined with the finest from its own collection, supplemented by modern art, topical interviews and reports create an impressive picture of the fascinating cultures of the Northwest Coast First Nations.

Totem Poles

Especially for the exhibition, Museum Volkenkunde commissioned a group North American First Nation artists led by Rande Cook to create an 8 meter high totem pole. The masterpiece of the exhibition. The Northwest Coast First Nations are world-famous for their magnificent totem poles. The topic is amply observed  in the exhibition. 

Art of the Northwest Coast

First Nations of the Northwest Coast have a rich tradition in the field of art. Carved wooden masks frequently serve to decorate, for example, houses, canoes and furniture. According to tradition women were engaged in weaving wrap blankets and the art of braiding (hats and baskets). Important families commissioned these products, status symbols rich with mythical figures. 

Significant celebrationsPotlotch copyright Pieter Paul Koster

Stories about ancestors in which mythological creatures played the main role were important ingredients of the numerous winter ceremonies and festivals celebrated during the long winters. Each community had its own stories. The most important ceremony of the Northwest Coast Indians was and, in 2012, still is the potlatch. It confirms host’s status and prestige. Aside from speeches and dancing, the most extraordinary part is the giving away of presents. The modern potlatch is primarily an expression of pride in one’s own culture.