Totem Poles of Gitanyow

Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1923.

Language Group or Village

The numbers and titles below correspond to the above map and labelled photograph

1. People-of-the-Ladder pole raised by Chief Luuxhon.

Standing at the top of the pole is the Person-of-the-Ladder who holds the Tall-hat on his head. Next is a small uncarved section, which is followed by another Person-of-the-Ladder, and then a Frog, which represents the steps to the house. Then there is another Person-of-the-Ladder and another frog under his feet. At the base is a fourth Person-of-the-Ladder. The four people together represent the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Photograph by G. MacDonald, 2009.

2. The Real-Kingfisher pole raised by Chief Luuxhon.

At the top of the pole is perched the Real-Kingfisher, followed by a small section of uncarved pole. Next are three of the four People-of-the-Ladder, who are represented by human figures. Then there is a Frog-of-the-House partition, followed by the fourth human figure called People-of-the-Smoke-Hole, and at the base is another Real-Kingfisher.

Unknown photographer and year.
Photograph on right by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

3. The pole of Chief Trawawq.

At the top of the pole is a bear. The rest of the pole has four large human figures one above the other.

This pole was located at the end of the row, to the south.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Photograph by G. MacDonald, 2009.

4. Pole of Chief ‘Willitsxw.

This pole is said to stand over 30 feet high. At the top is a wolf that appears to be running, and is placed perpendicular to the pole. Below the wolf is a large area of incised pattern. Next is a human called Running-Backwards with the head on backwards on the body, then another human, and then a wolf sitting with its tail between its legs. At the base of the pole is another human figure.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Photographer and year unknown

5. Second pole of ‘Willitsxw.

There is a human figure who is seated at the top of the pole. Next appears to be a bear with its head protruding from the pole. Then there appears to be a human figure, possibly Running-Backwards. Next a large section of pole with circles evenly spaced along the shaft, followed by a possible Eagle-Person at the base.

If you have more information on this pole, please let us know.

Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1923.
Photograph by G. MacDonald, 2009.
Unknown photographer and date

6. Hole-in-the-Ice, Place-of-Opening, Hole-in-the-Sky or Hole-through-the-Sky pole raised by Chief Haits’imsxw.

At the top of the pole is the Migrating Wolf with its head turned and paws grasping the top of the pole. Next is Ligi-ralwil, a person who was taken by the wolf, and then the wolf whose tail he holds on to. Then there is the Prince-of-Bears, split open with his stomach and entrails out, which are being bitten by another wolf. At the base of the pole is the Hole-Through with twelve human figures around the circular opening.

Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1923.

7. Ribs-of-the-Bear pole erected by Chief Malii.

At the top of the pole is the bear in a human-like form. Below are two columns of slanted marks that represent the ribs of the Grizzly bear, and then two bears cubs that are climbing up the pole. The top cub has it’s head lifted sideways off of the pole. There are more marks representing the ribs of the Grizzly, then another bear cub with its head down and then a large Grizzly or White-Bear with paws raised and extending out of the pole.

Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1924

8. The Sitting-Grizzly pole of Malii.

Sitting at the top of the pole is the Cormorant, who is perched on the head of the Sitting-Grizzly. Next are the two Grizzly cubs, one of which is sideways and the other is vertical. Next is a small human figure by the name of Disappeared, and at the base of the pole is the large Grizzly called White-Bear. The Grizzly has the two cubs with human faces shown in his ears, and another cub between his knees.

9. Skim-sim, Mountain-Eagle or Thunder-Bird totem pole erected by Chief Gwaas-Hlaam.

Perched at the top of the pole is a woodpecker. Below is one row of children who were kidnapped by the mythic Mountain-Eagle, followed by the Mountain-Eagle (Skim-sim) himself, and then another row of kidnapped children. At the bottom is Person-with-a-Large-Nose, who is holding a child.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Unknown photographer and year.
Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1923

10. The Cormorant pole erected by Chief Malii.

At the top of the pole is a small Cormorant, which is followed by a section of uncarved pole, and then another larger Cormorant. Next is a bear cub with it’s head facing down, and at the base of the pole is the ancestress called Disappeared.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

11. Pole of Tsiwiladaw or Split-Person pole of Chief Gwaas Hlaam.

This is the tallest of Chief Gwaas Hlaam’s four totem poles, and the pole stands in front of the Mountain-Eagle pole and the Split-Person pole.
 
The pole has about twenty children on it. The large figure at top is likely Split-Person, and the face for Tsilwiladaw, the Ancestress who adopted the woodpecker as a pet. Next are two rows of children, and then another Split-Person with two children in her arms. Another two rows of children, and at the bottom of the pole is the Large-Nosed-Person, whose nose is missing.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

12. The Split-Person pole of Chief Gwaas Hlaam.

At the top of the pole are two small figures standing on the head of the Split-Person, with a mask or headdress in between them. This design is repeated. However, the figures that are standing on the head of the second Split-Person are much larger and are each holding a child in their hands.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

13. Mountain-Eagle or Thunder-Bird pole erected by Chief Gwaas Hlaam.

Sitting at the top of the pole is the Mountain-Eagle followed by a large space that is left uncarved. Next is Tsiwiladaw, a mythic ancestress, who is holding her child in arms, and has a row of her children below her. At the base of the pole is the Large-Nosed-Person.

14. The Sleeping-Place-of-the-Raven pole erected by Chief Gamlakyeltxw.

At the time of construction, it was one of the tallest poles in existence (said to be over 60 feet high) and has fourteen figures on it.

At the top of the pole is perched the Sleeping-Place-of-the-Raven with three ravens sitting on a crossbar. A copper shield is attached to the right side of the pole, which is a sign of wealth.  Next is a small human with three faces, a human representing the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole, and then an Eagle. There are two concave notches (indicating a ladder) followed by another person called People-of-the-Ladder. The next figures are a Frog with its head down, the Headdress of the Upper River, a fourth human, a second Eagle, another frog with its head down, and the Real Kingfisher at the bottom of the pole.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Unknown photographer and year.
Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

15. People-of-the-Smoke-Hole or Real-People-of-the-Ladder pole erected by Chief Gamlakyeltxw.

This is the oldest of Gamlakyeltxw’s three poles, and the only pole to face south towards the Skeena. The rest of the poles face west towards Kitwancool River.
 
There are seven representations of the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole depicted in various sizes and positions on the pole. The person at the top of the pole is slightly smaller than the following two and there are three small people in a row above the larger base figure.

Photograph by G.T. Emmons, 1910.

16. People-of-the-Smoke-Hole or Sendihl pole erected by Chief Gamlakyeltxw.

On-Sleeps-the-Raven is sitting at the top of the pole, followed by a person sitting on his heals who represents the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole or Real-People-of-the-Ladder. Next is the Eagle (Mawdzeks), and another person representing the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole or Real-People-of-the-Ladder. A second Eagle (Mawdzeks), Boards-of-the-Smoke-Hole, which is represented by a human face and arms, with a small Eagle between the two arms. At the base of the pole is another human figure representing the People-of-the-Smoke-Hole or Real-People-of-the-Ladder who is wearing a twisted cedar bark headdress, and a third Eagle (Mawdzeks).

Photograph by C.M. Barbeau, 1924.

17. Flying-Frogs pole of Watakhayetsxw.

At the top of the pole is Stikine, and then a Flying-Frog with wings and its head facing down. Next is a large human figure who is sitting with hands raised and palms showing. Next is the Flying-Frog, and at the bottom of the pole is Just-Sticking-Out or Half-Way-Out.

18. The Real-Kingfisher or Sleeping-Place-of-the-Raven pole raised by Chief Watakhayetsxw.

At the top of the pole is the Real-Kingfisher, followed by the Skulls-of-People (depicted here as two heads or faces in a row), then a seated human, and then another row of Skulls-of-People. Next is another seated human with a small child standing at the person’s side, then Three-in-a-Row. After that is the Raven with a human inverted from his beak, another Three-in-a-Row, and at the bottom of the pole is a large third human. Attached to this human is the Large-Bladder of the Grizzly, which is a man sitting in a box that was separately carved and then attached. The man sitting in the box is a representation of the person the pole was erected in memory of.

Photographer and date unknown.
Photographer and date unknown.
Photograph © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.

19. Three-in-a-Row or Skulls-of-People pole.

Erected by Chief Watakhayetsxw, this pole was originally carved by Hagbegwatu (of Fireweed phratry from Gitsegukla).
 
At the top of the pole are Skulls-of-People that are separated by about two feet of space from the next figure, Three-in-a-Row, which is three faces side by side. After another gap are two humans, one above the other, and then at the base of the pole is Half-Way-Out, which is depicted as the upper half of a human.

Photograph © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.

20. The All-Frogs pole erected by Gwinuu.

At the top of the pole is ‘Neegyamks, with small frogs crawling down her body and hands as well as frog faces in her eyes. Along the remaining portion of the pole are three large Hanging-Frogs.

21. The Cane or Ribs-of-the-Frogs pole erected by Chief Gwinuu.

At the top of the pole was possibly a Raven. Two human figures, a Starfish-Person, a small Eagle or Child-of-the-Sun, a small wolverine face down, a Big-Wolverine face down, Water-Lily, the Prince-of-Ravens standing on the Raven-Drum, which is engraved with a human-like figure, Person-of-the-Starfish whose face and body is covered with small starfish, and then at the base of the pole is the Frog-Woman, who is covered with small frogs on her face and body.

Photo by G.T. Emmons, 1910.
Photo by C.M. Barbeau, 1924.

22. The Starfish-Person raised by Chief Gwinuu.

At the At the top of the pole is the Prince-of-Ravens followed by a large section of uncarved pole. Next is a Starfish-Person with four arms and a human face in the centre. After that are two Eagles (Mawdzeks), Person-of-the-Drum or Person-of-the-Bottom-Boards, and then the Frog-Dish at the bottom.

Unknown photographer and date.
Photo © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.
Unknown photographer and date.

23. The Raven-Soaring pole erected by Chief Gwinuu.

At the top, with its wings spread, is the Soaring-Raven. Next is Drifted-Aside with the pearl bow in hand, and then two humans with the bottom person upside-down and their feet together. Next is the bird-like man, the Eagle, Small-Frog-Across, and then Naraat, a spirit with a war club in hand. The last three at the base of the pole are the Prince of Ravens, and then two human figures: Come-From-Sickness and Heartless-Small-Slave.

24. The Frog-Hanging pole erected by Chief Gwinuu.

The upper half of pole is left uncarved. The lower portion of the pole has three figures. The first is the Hanging-Frog. Second is the Starfish person who has four arms and a human face in the centre. At the base of the pole is the Eagle, who has a bird head, a human body and a crown of Grizzly claws.

Photo © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.
Photo © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.

25. The Eagle-Person or Man-Eagle pole of Chief Gwinuu.

At the top of the pole stands the Eagle-Person, who has facial characteristics of both an eagle and a human. The Eagle-Person wears a crown of claws, has folded bird wings, and talons of a bird on his feet. Next is the People-of-the-Bottom-Boards, then another Eagle, and then the Eagle-Person’s headdress. Below the headdress is another Eagle-Person, who is holding a tadpole in his hands, a Water-Lily with faces engraved on some of the flat leaves, and then tadpoles in pairs that share one tail between two bodies. At the bottom is another Eagle-Person who is holding a Mountain-Trout in its hands.

Unknown photographer and year.
Photo by C.M. Barbeau, 1924.
Unknown photographer and date.

26. The Raven-Drum pole of Gwinuu.

The human figure at the top of the pole is called People-of-the-Drum, who is seated with hands held together in front of the body. Next is the Raven-Drum, the Large-Raven, the Large-Frog, and then the Frog-Person at the base of the pole.

27. Drifted-Aside or Drifted-to-One-Side pole of Chief Gwinuu.

At the top of the pole is the Pearled-Raven or All-Abalone-Pearl-Raven, who is standing on the head of Gisgyawtu. The hands of Gisgyawtu once held a pearl bow.

Unknown photographer and date.
Photo © G.F. MacDonald, 2009.

Textual Information for this page: Barbeau, 1929.

Note: Spelling of names are from Barbeau, Duff and the Office of the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs. Please let us know if any of these spellings are incorrect.