Chief Seattle’s Totem, The Tlingit’s Housepost and Hawaii

While in Washington my friend Ed sent me these photos of Chief Seattle’s grave site.


I was fascinated. Totems and Indians.These totems are of Cedar wood and painted in black and rust. They are carved by a Squaxin Island tribe member, Andrea-Wilber-Sigo.

Though I have heard of Seattle Washington I was totally ignorant of the Chief whom the city had been named after. I thought how interesting to see a totem at a grave site. I would have loved to have seen it up close. But then I remembered, we have a totem here in Hawaii that was actually made by Indians.

What does Hawaii have in common with Chief Seattle and the Tlingit’s in Alaska? Totems!

Chief Seattle

Image via Wikipedia

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle was said to have given a very famous speech about our environment. Many have heard it or have heard some of it. In part it said ” the earth does not belong to man; but man belongs to earth.”

There is much controversy concerning this speech. Much of what we know today about Chief Seattle’s speech was actually written by a modern-day screen writer for a documentary. If you would like to read more about the speech you can go to (speeches)

I am calling him Chief Seattle but within the Puget Sound Indians there is no name such as chief. These particular Indians were powerful men who were known for accomplishing particular feats. Seattle was known as an intelligent and formidable leader, important and dangerous. He was nicknamed by the men at Hudson Bay Company as “Le Gros” or The Big One as noted for his physique and personality. He was a force to be reckoned with amongst his enemies.

Chief Seattle’s memorial


In his last skirmish where he effectively wiped out his rivals, one of his son’s was killed. This had such an affect on him that he turned to the Catholic Church where he was converted and his name was changed to Noe (Noah)  Siattle. In turn he had his whole family convert to Catholicism. This then ended his fighting days. It was at this time he turned to helping the American settlers and eventually sold large parcels of land to the government and became involved in business.  He then  became known as the friend of the white man. For more information you can go to this site

So how does this connect with Hawaii? Totem Poles were symbols of the North-West-Coast Native tribes. There were many types of poles. Some were house post that may have held up some part of the front of the house or inside as a main pole holding up the house. There were even free-standing poles in front of houses. Each pole would identify and give the history of the owner.

Western Washington tribes carved grave monuments such as what we see standing in front of Seattle’s grave site.

This is a house post carved by the Tlingit people of Alaska.

The voyaging canoe Hawaiʻi Loa was built with  Sitka Spruce given to the Hawaiian people by the Tlingit and Haida tribes of Alaska.

The above House Post was given by the Tlingit tribe to symbolize the merging of two cultures. It was carved by Nathan Jackson.  On the upper left arm if you look close at the Killer Whale carving you will see many long strands of human hair. The hair comes from someone who is part Hawaiian and part Alaskan who is a village member. Again symbolic of the merger. The two males in the carving are representative of the two cultures, Tlingit and Hawaiian. (Hawaiian on the right with the green Haku)

If you would like a little back ground on the voyage and photos you can go here

And where is this House Post? Why at Bishop Museum.

And last but not least, I love trivia and I thought you would enjoy this piece I found while doing my research

Myth: The “low man on the totem pole” has the lowest status.

Fact: There is no universal significance to the order in which figures are placed on poles. Occasionally “ridicule” figures were carved to shame or embarrass a rival. You can go to this site to see other tidbits.