Model Totem Pole

About this object

History of use

Traditionally, Coast Salish sculptures took the form of large-scale houseposts and boards, which were decorated with realistic looking animal, human and supernatural figures. Totem poles, originally only carved by their northern neighbours, became more popular in the early 20th century as tourist art. Many scholars feel that traditional styles of Coast Salish "art" were overlooked because it expressed private, non-secular experiences of the makers and they were reticent to discuss it or sell it to individuals outside of their communities. Miniature carved objects, such as totem poles and canoes, were popular forms of tourist art in the 20th century and are found in many museum collections.


This pole was said to have belonged to the Solwheymault family of Sidney.

Cultural context

contemporary art; tourist art

Iconographic meaning

Animal represented is thought to be a shark. Hillary Stewart notes that the dogfish or shark is"easy to identify, Dogfish always has a high domed head, a downturned mouth - usually with sharp pointed teeth - and gill slits on each side of the mouth. The high "forehead" is the underside view of the fish's long tapering head and nose (1979:74)."

Physical description

Model totem pole carved of wood depicting two animal figures. The lower figure is an animal head with large round eyes, a two-triangle nose and triangular teeth. The details are emphasized through use of block engraving. The second animal figure sits on top of the first. It has a prominent forehead, round eyes and a protruding snout filled with triangle teeth. The figure is holding his arms up to his chin, his feet in front.