Totem Pole Stories




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By Robert De Groat

Each pole has its own unusual story differing from others in very distinct fashions.   One of the oddest and most interesting stories is that of the "Wigit," a pole and legend of the Northwestern Indians.

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The wigit is an animal which does great good and sees that none of the Indian fishermen become wasteful.   According to the legend, the wigit is a long animal with a head somewhat like the illustration-broad, flat and wedge-shaped.   If the Indian catches more fish in his net than he can possibly use, the wigit will follow him along the fastest flowing rivers, up against the strongest tides, and even jump waterfalls. 

When the wigit gets near enough to strike, he shoves his wedge-shaped head under the canoe or fishing boat and overturns the entire catch and douses the occupants as well, reminding the Indian that there are other needy people that hunt.

It is really a beautiful little imaginative story that will serve as a gentle reminder if you and your camp mates have a habit of catching more than you need.

Another interesting story is that of the raven that flew through the hole in the moon.   This pole is the fifth from the left in the cut, page 22.  In some tribes the raven is pictured as a very crafty bird and is the head totem of some of the important strong tribes.

The story goes that the raven had conquered all the forces of nature and had learned so much of them in his daily flights that he flew off to venture into new lands and atmospheres.  He saw the hole in the moon (at quarter), and decided he would fly up and pass his beak through the hole and return quickly.  With his wisdom and powerful wings he reached the moon, pecked his bill in firmly and with much effort and tugging returned safely, bringing the moon back with him as a prize to his tribe.   

As a general rule, the pole tells the history of a family or a person.  The history usually starts from the bottom of the pole and reads upward.  Very frequently the ancestors are represented as some heavy, powerful animal and the story tells that they have had conflict with the animal, have possibly been captured and forced by isolation to live and intermarry with that animal, after a love and friendship had sprung up between the two.

If there are fish or certain smaller animals in the hands of the person, it means that they have been particularly adept at catching that particular creature.  This is one feature that is noticeable on the majority of poles.  The object held depends principally upon the geographical location of the tribe and the animals they hunted.

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Peer- Level Topic Links:
Materials&Tools ] Totem Pole Design ] [ Totem Pole Stories ] Camp Uses ] Authentic Totems ] Patrol Totems ] Use of Color ] Totem Gifts ] Totem Paper Knives ] Totem Miniatures ] Totem Museum ] Totem Contest ] Preserving Totems ] A Totem Talks ] Bibliography ]

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Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.