For the full story of totems, purchase Altitude's Totem Poles. It tells several fascinating totem stories of Bear, Eagle, Raven, Beaver, Mountain Goat, Thunderbird, Whale and more. Plus, the book features hundreds of large scale color photos.

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Grand lord of the Sky Realm Thunderbird can make himself invisible and appear as a great wind. Groups of Thunderbirds are often busy with their own Wars carried out in the sky realm beyond human perception. When there are battles, humans can hear thunder and see lightning in the sky. Occasionally one of these grand creatures will come to human ceremony dressed as a great eagle chief.

Thunderbird's blockheaded brother, Kolus, sometimes pretends he's Thunderbird himself. Always trying to prove himself he sometimes flies too close to the sun and that's why his feather tips are burned black. He eats Mosquitoes and sometimes helps humans lift the heavy roof beam of their longhouses into place.

Aristocratic lord of the Sky Realm, Eagles are part of Thunderbird's entourage. They live with other lordly Eagles in the sky kingdom, often getting into wars. Occasionally, they transform into a human dancer and attend dance ceremonies.

Powerful, ever-transforming trickster Raven has over 90 stories told about him. Ever hungry, deviant, compulsive, crooked, corrupt and deceptive, he still manages to be likable Though he is often in big trouble. he is usually able to trick his way out of it. Ever politically incorrect, it's not a good idea to speak disrespectfully in front of him or those who use him as their symbol. Never underestimate Raven's power. Among his many clever forms, he can transform into is a fearsome cannibalistic creature called Hok Hok who can pluck your eyes out.

Rulers of their own underwater city, Whales, also known as Blackfish, live with other royal underwater beings like Copper Woman and Komogwa, the underwater sea king. Whales hate Thunderbirds because Thunderbirds can scoop Whales right out of the water and eat them. Some Whales get tired of ocean life, scrap off their skin, and turn into Wolves. In this form, they continue to hunt on land in killer-packs. A Whale that has transformed halfway is called a Sea Wolf.

All Whales in B.C. are pictured head down (to symbolize defeat) because an Alaskan tribe once defeated the Nass tribes and demanded to exclusively use the Whale symbol. Alaskan carvers carve Whale hear up or head down as they please. And B.C. carvers have found a way to use the figure again. Find the eye and teeth, the dorsal fin. The tail doesn't show in this photo. But this Whale's blow hole is in its dorsal fin. Fun!

We know this creature as an Octopus, but on Alaskan totems its usually called a Devilfish. It could grab a man with its tentacles and hold them underwater 'til they drowned. They were attracted to the color red.

Siskiutl (pronounced SISK-you-ul) is a two-headed sea serpent who can turn enemy warriors into stone with one glance. It's been known to swiftly pull huge war canoes to the site of a battle, Wearing its symbol protects those who wear it from injury during war. This creature has removable sharp crystal eyes and cutting spines. It hates Thunderbirds, but loves blood and cuts. Probably modeled on the huge sturgeon that live in these parts, it's prickly reputation may come from the young sturgeon's sharp razor spines.

Bears live in their own villages in the forests and are able to make fires with wet sticks. They can easily transform into human form though as such, they have a lumbering gait and wear thick bearskin coats. Animal or human, they must not be insulted or cursed. Male Bears are caring creatures with a yen to marry human princesses. Bear Mothers have twin children who grow to adulthood in record time.

Vengeful creatures, Beavers occasionally murder humans. If provoked, they dig underground tunnels that undermine villages and cause earthquakes and landslides. With their fine front teeth, they not only build dens, they make fine arrows. Beavers were at War with humans for a long time (the beaver pelt trade of the 1800s).

See this Beaver's long front teeth and tail folded up in front.

Much misunderstood and underestimated, Frog is associated with the bringing of great fortune or even wealth. It can survive bursting out of its skin, being buried in the lava of volcanic eruptions and being buried. It must not be insulted as it is a great friend of Copper Woman who lives in the Undersea realm. If insulted, it tattles to her and she causes volcanic eruptions.

Wild Woman (known by various names) owns certain valuable treasures that humans love to get their hands on. But, thief that she is, she's the one who usually steals fish and treasures from humans. Her fancy name is pronounced SO-no-kwa (Tsonoqua) or Dah-ZUN-kwa (Dzunkwa). This creature lives on the Earth Realm, smells awful, and collects human children to eat. But relax: they usually escape because she is so dull-witted. Left over from the time when cannibals roamed the earth, she cannot be killed-- not permanently. When she is burned up in a fire for her crimes, her ashes fly up into the air and turn into Mosquitos... grey little ash-like creatures, still hungry for blood.
Some say this creature is modeled after the Bigfoot or Sasquatch said to live in this part of the world.

Wolf is a solitary creature who is a good drummer, howls at the moon and likes to go to midnight dances. Because of its late night habits, it has made friends with the Ghost People who also like to dance around at night. Wolf is a great healer and knows many secrets. Some human shamans can turn into Wolves and some Wolves turn into shamans.
Wolf and Raven are the two main totem crests in Alaska.




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