Bears in Totem Poles of the Northwest Coast Natives

Totem poles are carved with striking designs and colors, many depicting bears.

Standing tall along the Alaska coast, the totem poles of Sitka National Historical Park tell the stories of Northwest Coast Native peoples. Tlingit and Haida carvers created the poles that line the park's scenic coastal trail. Totems or crests are animals, such as bears, or objects associated exclusively with a particular family or clan. A totem pole generally served one of four purposes:

  • Crest poles give the ancestry of particular family.
  • History poles record the history of a clan.
  • Legend poles illustrate folklore or real life experiences.
  • Memorial poles commemorate a particular individual.

The poles displayed in the park are carved with striking designs and colors, many depicting bears. You can take the virtual Carved History Walk to 15 different stops along the park's trails or explore the detailed history of the park's totem poles (PDF).

Last updated: September 19, 2017