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Totem poles

Maori poles! (New Zealand totem poles)                                                                                   According to maori belief, the rubbing of noses signifies the mixing of breath and reinforces the breath of the world. In New Zealand Maori wood sculptures are not called totem poles, but they do serve some of the same purposes. The hardwood posts are the likeness of ancestors who are not to be forgotten. Traditionally the posts served as a family tree or a record for one's progeny and the people decorated posts inside and outside their meeting houses. They also embellished most of their everyday objects. Swirling patterns were applied to weapons boxes, canoes, flutes, tools, and houses. Grotesque posts were designed to frighten away enemies. Called the Vikings of the sunrise, the Maoris are known to have arrived New Zealand from Hawaii about 1000 years ago. There are no academic studies linking these ancient rovers to the Northwest Coast of North America, but the parallels are interesting.

Long, Long ago, obscured by the passage of time, people living along the pacific coast of North America developed a culture based on the abundance surrounding them. Tidal pools yielded hoards of shellfish. Rivers were laden with migrating salmon. The air was filled with flocks of waterfowl. Forests soared with mighty trees. To survive and thrive in this environment, nameless individuals painstakingly invented tools, refined their techniques, and passed on their knowledge. In turn, their expertise in the technology of survival freed up the leisure time required to established a rich and vibrant cultural life. Long-ago artisans turned to the decorative potential of stone and wood, particularly cedar. Excavated tools suggest that coastal people were working with wood by about 5000 BC. The embodiment of eons of artistic traditions can be seen today, woven into the fascinating aboriginal and totem poles of the first nations of the region known as the northwest coast.



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