What is a Totem Pole?


The way we live in our society is to divide ourselves into families. Our immediate family and our relatives are our relatives are our “group”. But there many primitive groups of people who divide themselves differently.

Among such people there are “tribes”, and all members of a tribe are considered to be related. The relationship may be real, or they may just decide to call themselves related.

These groups usually have an “ancestor”, who may be a kind of mythical human being, and the deeds of this ancestor are glorified through the ages. Or this “ancestor” may be an animal or even a plant or natural object!

Usually, the tribe is descended either from an ancestor who had a special relationship with a certain animal, or from the animal itself. In such cases, the group takes its name from the animal, and its symbol becomes the badge or “totem” of the group.

The animal is called “the totem animal”. such a group is known as a “totemic tribe”. Many of the tribes have cerved and painted totem poles. They may show the totem animal ancestor and other beings important in the story of the tribe.

The totem pole is usually set up in the vilage to give the tribe prestige and to show their pride in their ancestor. People who live in such totemic tribes have different practices in different parts of the world.

As a rule members of the same tribe are not alowed to marry. The children belong to the mother’s tribe, and not the father’s.   

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