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Native American Heritage: Native American History and Culture in the United States

8 facts about Alaska's totem poles

  1. Totem poles from Alaska are carved from cedar, which is rot-resistant and grows in the rainforests (yes, rainforests) in Southeast Alaska.
  1. The totem pole originated in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska.
  1. Totem poles are carved to display characters and ancient stories, which is why totem carvings often include fish, eagles, bears, ravens, human faces and even supernatural figures.
  1. Historically, totem poles were never fully painted. However, when something was to be painted, a mixture of chewed cedar bark and salmon eggs was used, along with certain powders for pigment, as a type of oil-based paint.
  1. Contrary to what the first European explorers thought, totem poles were never objects of worship, but rather were illustrations of important family or cultural stories.
  1. Some of the greatest concentrations of currently standing totem poles are in Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska, and can be easily seen at the Sitka National Historical Park and Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center and Totem Bight State Historical Park.
  1. One of the tallest totem poles in the world can be found in Kake, Alaska, standing at 132 feet tall.
  1. One of the most famous living totem pole artists is Tlingit Nathan Jackson. Since 1975, he has carved more than 47 totem poles over 10 feet long.

From "8 things you didn’t know about Alaska’s totem poles"

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