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Totem Pole

Totem Pole

Average User Rating: 44444 | 8 Ratings
Ages 3 and upAges 3 and Up
Duration: Over One Hour
Learn about the Native tribes of the Pacific Northwest by making a totem pole that you and your child can decorate with some of their traditional symbols.
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Totem poles were first carved from cedar trees by the Native people of the Pacific Northwest. They are bold and colorful symbols of the identities and stories of the people who carved them. Totem poles can be compared to the Great Seals or Coats of Arms from other nations.


  • 3 - 48.7 oz. NESQUIK canisters
  • Masking tape
  • 6 sheets of 8 1/2 by 11 inch white construction paper
  • White #169 paper
  • Cellophane tape
  • Safety scissors
  • Crayons or colored markers


  • Wash and dry three empty NESQUIK canisters. Stack the three canisters and tape then together using masking tape.
  • Overlap and tape together 2 sheets of construction paper so that it measures 20 inches long and 6 3/4 inches high. Repeat this so that you have 3 sheets.
  • Wrap one of these sheets around each of the canisters. Tape to secure.
  • Print the symbol templates  for Thunderbird, Thunderbird Wings, Frog, and Fish onto white #169 paper. 
  • This is the meaning of each of the symbols represented in this Totem Pole:
    • Thunderbird -- Power, Leadership
    • Frog -- Spring, New Life
    • Fish -- Life, Protection
  • Color each symbol with crayons or colored markers, and cut them out with safety scissors.
  • Wrap one completed symbol around each canister, securing with a glue stick. See the diagram to show suggested stacking order.
  • Place the two wings on either side of the Thunderbird figure, fold tabs back where indicated and secure with cellophane tape or craft glue.


  • You can choose to use a roll of brown craft paper to wrap your stack of canisters and print out the templates onto brown craft paper to give it a more wood/antique look.


  • Make totem poles that represent symbols from your family. For example: use your state bird or flower, a drawing of your house, a symbol of mom's or dad's job (hammer, nurse's cap) and symbols of other family member's interests. 




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Reader Comments (1)

Posted on: 3/21/2013 4:57 PM

Posted by: Crissy M

City: Seattle, WA

Article Rating:

You need to be very careful with the information in this article and activity. It is very misleading. Totem poles and the pretty colorful art we see are from Canada to Alaska, Not WA, and OR. We do not have Totem Poles here, we have Story Poles and they are different. It's important to respect the culture and traditions of others. Please make sure you have your facts correct.
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