Totem poles were raised by various tribes of indians in the  evergreen rain forests of the  Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska to honor important individuals.
These hunter - gatherer tribes were composed of seven distinct tribes with a number of different dialects who tried to live in harmony with the many natural animals and forces which they encountered in an  interconnectedness way of all life.

Wealth and prestige were associated with family linkage and intermarriage often occured to cement familial bonds.

Totem poles were raised to celebrate important births, marriages, deaths, property transferences, new house, new chief etc.

These totem poles were elaborately carved from huge trees and were brightly painted.

Spoon manufacturers were quick to pick up on the things that tourists were likely to see, and we find a number of different totem poles depicted on spoons.

In some cases the spoons fairly accurately portrayed certain totem poles and in other cases they simply depicted generic images of totem poles or parts of totem poles.

On my recent visit to the Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan, Alaska, the Senior curator, Richard H. Van Cleave helped me identify some of these spoons and inspired me to redo this entire exhibit.
totem victoria indian
Nice engraved indian profile on a standard totem pole handle. The indian's face has been treated to give it a natural color

totem pole spoons

As usual we find many different shapes and styles of spoons. Some of these spoons were manufactured by established silver companies and in some cases they were handmade by local silversmiths.
All the silver company spoons are sterling. The hand made spoons were usually made from silver quarters, half dollars or silver dollars and are most likely 900 silver.

In some cases, the spoons were sold in distant places and were then customized for that particular area..

totem spoon

The four spoons on the left  show the Chief Kyan Totem pole in Ketchikan. Notice that they are different sizes which means that different tool and dies were made
 left: 1. customized with a city scene and labeled Seattle.
2. customized with a building and mountain scene and labeled "Olympia Range from Seattle"
3.  no bowl scene, back is labeled Ketchikan Alaska
4. customized showing the parliament building in Victoria, BC (a truly impressive looking building)
In the first picture there is also a demi sized spoon showing this totem pole and it is customized for Boulder Dam (to my knowledge there were no totem poles in that area)

The two demi spoons on the right both show the same totem pole (not identified).
1. the first is customized showing a city scene for Ketchikan, Alaska
2. customized showing a mountain scene and labeled as Mt. Skagway, Alaska

totem pole spoons raven
left: 1. Cast spoon (probably modern) and labeled as "Thunderbird totem, Alaska sterling by Houston"
There are several thunderbird totems but I suspect that this one is depicting the Kwakuitl style pole raised at the Campbell River Reserve, Thuderbird Hall as a memorial to
Chief Bill Roberts and carved by Bill Henderson
2.  customized for Vancouver (BC)
3.  partial enameling on stem no customization in bowl, back marked "Alaska Totem Pole"
4. partial enameling on stem in different colors -- back marked "Alaska Totem Pole"

totem pole spooninteresting shaped bowl and customized for Prince Rupert  (BC) (unidentified pole but may be from the Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan)
hand made with an unidentifed mark

totem pole spoonunidentifed pole on hand made spoon by a local artisan - not marked but probably 900 silver

totem pole spoonunidentified totem pole -hand made spoon marked "Alaska". It is signed on the back in ink but difficult to read

totem pole spooninteresting hand made spoon with unusual bowl  showing  an engraved salmon , The back is engraved "Sitka 189"
I suspect that the last digit of the year was left off and was supposed to be engraved at the point of sale

totem pole spoonunidentified pole. spoon marked 'sterling' with no other identification.
The handle shows the same totem pole on both the front and back

totem pole spoonconventionally produced art deco style spoon with hand cut outs around the top figure.  Unidentified mark

totem pole spoonhand made spoon by a local artisan --no identifying marks. I suspect it is 900 silver

totem pole spoonHand sawn totem pole spoon and labeled Seattle

Return to indian spoon index

Return to exhibits index