Native American Indian Facts

Totem Pole Facts

Beautiful Totem Pole
Totem Pole


Some towering nearly forty feet high (12 meters) Native American Indian totem poles, carved from the trunks of massive trees, are a stunning example of Native American Indian art. On this page is a list interesting facts about totem poles including where the Indian tribes that made them were, why they sculpted totem poles, how they made them, and what materials they used. Both kids and adults will find the easy-to-read format of this information helpful.

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Native American Indian Totem Poles General Facts

Facts about How Native American Indian Totem Poles Were Made

Types of Native American Indian Totem Poles

The different types of totem poles can generally be put into one of six categories.
  1. Story-telling poles - Without written language, Native Americans used symbols engraved into totem poles to preserve stories and legends that were passed down orally from one generation to the next.
  2. Memorial poles - Served to highlight the life of an important tribal member.
  3. House poles and family lineage poles - Told of a tribal clans ancestry and lineage. House poles also helped to support the actual structure of the house.
  4. Shame poles - made to serve as a reminder to both groups and individuals that exhibited objectionable behavior. Poor leadership, tribal quarrels, unpaid debts, murders and any unfulfilled obligations were all reasons to erect a shame pole.
  5. Commemorative poles - These totem poles were usually the largest and were created in celebration of a specific occasion.
  6. Mortuary poles and grave marker poles - Some totem poles were hollowed out in the back to serve as a holder for a deceased tribal member's ashes while some were used as grave markers in later years.