Art April 23-27

Totem Poles


Students will finish adding color to their Totem Pole Projects this week. They will be using markers as a medium.

The Indians originally used pigments made from clay and roots.  The colors were very bright and became subdued after the pole had weathered several winters.  The symbolism of the colors changed a little in different parts of the United States.   Therefore we have attempted to give only a general meaning to the prevalent shades.

Meaning of Totem pole Colors

WHITE: This color is used, along with other light colors, as a background and predominating shade.  As a rule it symbolized the skies and spacious heavens.  It also stood for purity, peace, and death.

Red: Generally this color stands for blood, war or valor.   Sometimes it is used as appears in nature, such as the crest of a red-headed woodpecker, the scarlet tanager or frequently the tongue of an animal.

Blue: This color was most commonly used as the symbol for the rivers, waters, and lakes, also the skies.  Certain tribes even used used it for mountains in the distance.  It stands for sincerity and happiness. Berries formed a large portion of the natural materials for this color.  Western clay and pigments of the canyons also lent varying hues to this effective color.

Yellow: The natural abundant materials made this color a very popular and predominating one. Clays, roots, and tannic barks furnished the natives with dyes.  Yellow reflects the symbol of the sun, light and happiness.  Yellow dye is readily make from tree moss.

Green: It may easily be realized that this color represents the earth, the hills, the trees, and mountains, so common in all Indian legends.

This color may be obtained by mixing two primary colors, yellow and blue, or it may be made from simple acid action on copper. In certain sections of the west and northwest copper was rather abundant. Other parts of the country used the juice of grasses.

PURPLE: Huckleberries give a very good substance for dyeing and the Indians used this commonly. Purple is an excellent color for recessed Portions of the carving and for symbols of a reverent nature. It stood for mountains in the distance and general conventionalized signs.

BLACK: Mud from sulphur springs and other earth deposits made this color available to the Indian.  As a rule it stood for power.

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