An object that is significant to me, is my family’s totem pole. It was created for my great grandfather, when he stepped down from the position of chief of the Tsim Tsian tribe. The carvers who created it for him, spent years perfecting each animals expression. The animals on the totem pole, highlight spiritual parts of the tribe, and his leading style. The totem pole has a small note attached to it which is from various tribe members. They wrote in order to thank my great grandfather for his service, and for the respect he treated them with. I would consider this a primary source, as the letter is written directly from the people.
My great great grandfather was a caucasian man, who worked for the government. His mission, was basically to keep the indigenous people “in line” and watch over them. He treated the people with a great amount of respect however, and was well appreciated. When his son was born, the son was ceremonially elected as the Tsim
Tsian chief. He didn’t really take on the same responsibilities that a chief would, but that was his title. When he turned nineteen, my great grandfather went to the first world war, and had to step down from his position. When he arrived back from the war, unharmed, he was gifted the totem pole and the letter. The people appreciated my great granddad so much, because it wasn’t very common to be treated respectfully, by a caucasian person back then. The racism of the time, made him look like a saint, for merely treating the people with dignity.
What’s interesting about the totem pole and letter, is that the letter describes each animal, but never clearly says exactly who carved it, or what each animal means. Historians could guess, but never know for sure. My great uncle tried to recall to me what each animal meant, but even he couldn’t clearly remember, since his father told him when he was very young. This proves how much can be lost over time, in regards to history.
The creators of the totem pole were all part of the Tsim Tsian tribe, however I don’t know who they were individually, as their names aren’t ever acknowledged in the letter. They created the totem pole out of graciousness, and utter thanks.
I don’t personally know very much about Totem poles, so it alone doesn’t truly share the story of my great grandfather with me. The letter however, clarifies the kind of person my great grandfather was, as I never met him. I wish that I knew what each individual animal means. I also wish I knew what my great granddad’s relationship with these people was. All I know really, is his technical position. Unfortunately he died when he was very young, so his kids didn’t grow up hearing his stories. They therefore, can’t really be considered even secondary sources. So unfortunately, this totem pole represents a piece of history which has been lost in the fold of time, and my family’s memory loss.