Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ninstints in Haida Gwaii

(click on image to enlarge)

Last vestige of a village
Watercolour and crayon
©2013 Charlene Brown

Ninstints, near the southern end of the Haida Gwaii archipelago (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) was hit hard by small pox in 1862 and eventually abandoned in 1885. The Ninstints totems are being allowed to succumb to the natural decay of the lush Northwest rainforest.
There has been much discussion of the significance (or lack thereof) of vertical order of images on a totem pole – including the opinion that the "low man on the totem pole” is actually in the most prestigious position! Placing a figure at the bottom increases its prominence as a feature of the pole because trees are thicker towards the base. 
Except when I was drawing these Ninstints poles it became apparent that in most of them the top is bigger… I could find no discussion of this exception to ‘the rule.’ Am I the only person who thinks they’re flared at the top – more like a South Pacific tiki (see example on the right) than a North Pacific totem …?