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Totems: silent messengers of the West Coast 2004

Opened October 30, 2008

Magnificent and unforgettable, totem poles have become a distinctive landmark of the Pacific Northwest. When traveling along the coast of British Columbia, the ancient poles tell of past and present communities who inhabit the land. Cultural identity and spirituality runs deep within all coastal nations. The totem pole is an integral member of these First Nations communities, giving life to important family crest figures who reveal the connection and balance between all living things.

Totem poles function symbolically to communicate a strong oral and visual language that bridges all coastal native cultures- from the southern Coast Salish and Nuu chah nulth through to the most northern Haida and Tsimshian Nations.

Historically, totem poles were commissioned by the Chief to mark a special event. Today, these silent messengers remain commanding great respect as they continue to proclaim significant community events or gatherings. Modern Pole raising ceremonies involve all community members and those who participate in the raising of the pole are regarded with great importance and stature.

Now more than ever before, First Nation's art is regarded as among the world's most treasured art forms. As the impetus for this exciting exhibition, Coastal Peoples Gallery is pleased to assist in the preservation of First Nation's art and culture. Totem poles are specifically carved to preserve the First Nation's cultural identity and tell the story of the village inhabitants for which they were created and raised for all to see and understand.

We are excited to present this diverse collection of traditional and contemporary totem poles and take great pride in imparting our knowledge of this ancient art form. We sincerely appreciate and acknowledge the contributing artists, outstanding skills, dedication and tremendous foresight in creating this monumental exhibition that pays homage to the North West Coast First Nations most symbolic icon, the Totem Pole.

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