Alaskan State History Highlight: Totem Poles

Alaskan State History Highlight: Totem Poles

If you have Native American ancestry or just would like to understand the meaning behind totem poles, this History Highlight is for you!

alaskan totem poles

Northwest American Indians erected totem poles—a term adapted from the Algonquian odoodem, for a clan or family—as a kind of family crest.

Think of totem poles as a visible way to tell important family or cultural stories.

The poles, made of rot-resistant cedar, range from 10 to 60 feet tall. Carvers used sharp stones, sea shells, bones or even beaver teeth.

See stunning totem poles on display at the Sitka National Historical Park, the Alaska State Museum in Juneau and the Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan.

Digging into your Alaskan family history? Don’t miss out on Alaskan State Research Guide.