Potlatch totem pole design meaning and symbolism

Posted by Karin Clark on

Northwest Coast art-style potlatch totem pole top

This is a Northwest Coast art-style potlatch pole top, designed by Jim Gilbert. At the top of the pole are human "watchers" or "The Watchmen," who are lookouts in the various directions seeking to warn and protect the village from enemies. 

The middle watcher faces the ocean to search for incoming canoes from other villages, and the other two look to the sides along the shoreline and keep watch over the village.

The number of parts to their tall hats indicate how many potlatches this family has given. In this case, the four sections show this family has given four Potlatches - a very powerful family. 

More about Pacific Northwest Coast totem poles

You can find more cultural information and meanings about Pacific Northwest Coast art-style totem poles in Volume 1 (see "Aboriginal Art within a Cultural Context," pages 8-14) and in Volume 2 (see "Aboriginal Cultural Context: Talking with One First Nations Family," pages 27-41).