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2/19/2016 1:30 pm  #1


Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

As part of the Algonquins of Ontarios' efforts to strengthen their presence throughout their traditional territory, on October 25, 2015, more than 300 people gathered at Algonquin Park's East Gate to celebrate a totem pole’s arrival. Dan Bowers presented the totem pole to Algonquin Park on behalf of the AOO and the Whitney and Area Algonquins. Park Superintendent Dave Coulas, who had worked with Bowers from the beginning to create a space for the totem pole, was on hand for the presentation.

Further details available at .. http://www.tanakiwin.com/current-initiatives/current-initiativestotem-pole-in-algonquin-park/

Thanks to the Algonquins of Ontario website for the following photo ...

http://www.tanakiwin.com/wp-system/uploads/2016/01/TotemPoleAlgonquinPark.jpg

 

2/19/2016 3:33 pm  #2


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

Very interesting Barry , and thanks !  A nice piece of art .
Historically , that totem pole is as significant to Algonquin Park as a camboose shanty .
My understanding , totem poles in Algonquin are of a recent addition , and historically more a westcoast tradition on traditional lands.
Have yet to see the historical ruins of one in Algonquin Park ?
 " The totem pole is a monument created by Northwest Coast Aboriginal peoples to serve variously as a signboard, genealogical record and memorial "
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/totem-pole/

Last edited by John Connelly (2/19/2016 3:54 pm)

 

2/19/2016 4:43 pm  #3


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

Definitely totem poles are an element of west coast Aboriginal culture, not Algonquian/Anishinaabe culture. The write up on the FN website acknowledges that when it says "Although a totem pole is not a traditional way of expressing Algonquin culture, Bowers said that carving the totem pole was his way of sharing Algonquin culture with future generations while honouring the ancestors.". Interestingly however, the word totem (from "doodem") comes from the Anishinaabe tradition, referring to the symbols of each clan. (Clans in this context refers to ancient ancestry, not family group or community; any community would traditionally be made up of people of many clans. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anishinaabe_clan_system )

So if the word can be taken out west and applied to something there, that thing can be brought back east, I guess?

Looking at this totem pole it does seem to use what to my untrained eyes look more like Anishinaabe symbols and artistic styles rather than west coast ones.

Anyway, it is a bit curious to me that a totem pole would be used as a symbol of Algonquin culture. But I guess it's a matter of applying the local culture's art and beliefs to a format that has come to symbolize First Nations culture more broadly. And when you're inspired to make something out of an intact mature pine trunk, there isn't much alternative to a pole-shaped final product, right?

 

2/19/2016 5:11 pm  #4


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

"As part of the Algonquins of Ontarios' efforts to strengthen their presence throughout their traditional territory"
As this is a very significant issue related to Algonquin Park and it's historical multi-use, I feel it fair to question the means used when describing traditional use ( territory ) and traditional symbols .
 

Last edited by John Connelly (3/02/2016 9:23 pm)

 

2/19/2016 8:06 pm  #5


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

Even if it's not historically significant it's Beautiful! Also does good job of raising Algonquin awareness and presence in the park.

I lament the fact that there isn't a good showcase of native culture in the park. Something along the lines of the logging museum.

The best interpretive programs I have attended in any Ontario Park are put on by the loggers at the museum and the Algonquins at Whitefish Lake.

I took a look at the pole 2 weeks ago when I was up in the park. Would like to know the stories associated with each totem. Its pretty impressive for someone's first stab at it.

 

2/20/2016 8:32 am  #6


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

Is there any evidence of totem poles ever existing in what is now known as "Algonquin Park"?

Do any of the local nations have any cultural or historical records of creating totem poles in the area?

Seems like the totem pole has been reduced to the same significance as inukshuks.  A cultural icon appropriated by any and all for no particular reason.


Barbara


Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one.

Tom Thomson, 1877-1917
 

2/20/2016 4:38 pm  #7


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

I don't think totem poles were part of the culture of the aboriginals that originally lived in what is now Algonquin Park.  Their hunting and gathering lifestyle would not have left them with much spare time for such an activity.   The totem pole at the East Gate is by no means the first totem pole to be erected in Algonquin.  The totem pole at the Tom Thomson cairn on Canoe Lake was erected in 1932 by the Taylor Statten camps.

 

2/20/2016 5:15 pm  #8


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

yellowcanoe wrote:

The totem pole at the Tom Thomson cairn on Canoe Lake was erected in 1932 by the Taylor Statten camps.

Which also has no relevance to Algonquin Park.  It was a rather typical thing that American kids' camps did back in those days. 

Barbara


Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one.

Tom Thomson, 1877-1917
 

2/20/2016 7:07 pm  #9


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

MartinG wrote:

Even if it's not historically significant it's Beautiful! Also does good job of raising Algonquin awareness and presence in the park.

I lament the fact that there isn't a good showcase of native culture in the park. Something along the lines of the logging museum.

The best interpretive programs I have attended in any Ontario Park are put on by the loggers at the museum and the Algonquins at Whitefish Lake.

I took a look at the pole 2 weeks ago when I was up in the park. Would like to know the stories associated with each totem. Its pretty impressive for someone's first stab at it.

 
I agree on all points.

 

2/21/2016 11:46 am  #10


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

The alternative to the totem pole could have been to place figures of the totems the various Algonquin clans would have identified with during their history. This was done in Toronto at the new Humber river bridge built for the waterfront trail (at a cost of, whew, four million dollars for that bridge) where the Mississauga's totem was a turtle IIRC. There are metal turtle figures in stainless steel or aluminum set in concrete at either entrance to the bridge and words carved in stone describing the aboriginal significance but I've forgotten what they are. Probably can be googled somewhere.
 ​
The Algonquins were mostly a mobile culture, moving from place to place for hunting and gathering, unlike the Hurons and Iroquois which established semi-permanent villages until the land's productive capacity (eg. corn) ran out which forced them to move after 10-20 years. The Algonquins did have a permanent village at Allumette Island on the Ottawa river where they forced a toll on travelers and fur traders, taking furs and other items in return for permission to travel through their lands, and also grew corn inland. There are descriptions of the village in Champlain's accounts and later on from a French missionary Sagard, written about 1630. Sagard's book, on the long journey to the Hurons especially is a great read on native cultures in southern Ontario at that time. 

BTW, the reality in the accounts written by Sagard, Champlain, and others in the Huron Relations of the early 1600s are brought forward more or less in the movie Black Robe and if you've read the accounts, the movie becomes much more interesting. But Black Robe was a flop at the box office and critics hated it, maybe because it didn't have the makings of a popular movie made for modern consumer culture. Compare that against the much more successful Dances With Wolves where the need for historical accuracy was less... maybe some comment could be made here on the relevance of the totem pole to APP history and prehistory here but I suspect the needs of popular culture have more to do with it than anything historically accurate.



 

 

2/29/2016 8:25 am  #11


Re: Totem Pole in Algonquin Park

Back before the pole in question was placed at the East Gate of Algonquin Park, I wrestled with the idea of a west coast style totem pole being used to represent a modern spirit of reconciliation with and by the Algonquins.  I spoke with the gentleman who carved the pole, who had grown up in Whitney. Dan Bowers, an Algonquin from Whitney, is a good man with good intentions.  Since the East Gate pole is a representation of modern Algonquin thought, and a totem pole certainly is a recognizable icon of Canadian native culture in most people’s minds throughout the world, it probably works well from a “recognition of native presence”  perspective, keeping in mind  that Algonquin Park lies, for the most part, within territory claimed by the Algonquins.  But that aside, the pole was donated to Algonquin Park by the Algonquins of Ontario for more noble reasons.  According to a local newspaper, “Although a totem pole is not a traditional way of expressing Algonquin culture, Bowers said that carving the totem pole was his way of sharing Algonquin culture with future generations while honouring the ancestors.”
As some of you are aware, I get hung up on historical accuracy. My foremost concern was that such a carved pole could not possibly represent any aspect of Algonquin culture, as I had never heard of carved poles being part of that culture.  Rocks that looked like turtles, yes; paintings in ochre on rock faces, yes; but not carved poles or monuments.  Well, if there is one thing I have learned as I have grown older it is that I do not know everything. So I went looking for information.
The earliest written record we have regarding the Algonquins of the Ottawa River came from Samuel de Champlain’s visit to Chief Tessouat’s  stronghold at Morrison Island in 1613. In the on-line Dictionary of Canadian Biography, under the heading Tessouat, we find the following: “Champlain described the cemeteries on Allumette [it was Morrison] Island. Upright boards bore the face of the person buried, rudely carved. For a man, there was also a shield, a sword-handle, a club, or bows and arrows; for a chief, a bunch of feathers; for a child, a bow and arrow; for a woman or girl, a kettle, earthen vessel, wooden spoon, and paddle. They were painted red and yellow ‘with various decorations as fine as the carving’.”
So, the Algonquins did have a form of mortuary monument that was carved.  It wasn’t highly refined, but then at that time their access to good steel chisels was probably limited.  The earliest  description of a west coast totem pole, which includes mortuary poles,  was written down by a fur trader in 1791. Totem poles that pre-dated contact with European traders were described as flat and shallowly carved, when compared with the more modern and larger poles carved in the mid-1800s. If the west coast poles could develop with technology, so should it be possible for carved Algonquin monuments to change over time.  In a sense a mortuary plank from Tessouat’s village is to the East Gate pole as Champlain’s black powder arquebus is to a high-powered rifle, or as a wooden hook or gorge attached to a basswood or gut string is to a Shimano rod and reel combo with Fireline, or as a camboose shanty bunk and dish of beans is to a bed and fine meal at the Mad Musher. One expects advances in technique or use as new technology becomes available.
Now I focus on the modern meaning behind the commemorative pole at the East Gate  rather than worry if it is historically accurate to the 1600s.
Rory MacKay

 

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