Traditional Animal Totem Designs of Native Americans

Originated from spiritual cultural ceremonies!

Animal totem designs decorate everything

Traditional cultural designs are on ceremonial regalia, like the Chilkat and button blankets, woven hats made of the cambium layer of cedar trees, cedar drums (some have painted designs), etc. Take a look at the video clip below for examples of ceremonial regalia. Ceremonial Robes

One icon still generating academic and commercial interest is the monolithic totem pole. Even today there are First Nations communities whose totems attract tourist attention. Some tourists are so enchanted that they drive to different communities just to see them. Check out the video clip below for a good example...

Gitanyow First Nations community Totem Poles

Traditional totem designs on poles are a historical record of a family’s or Clan’s historical Story of Origin and/or Survival. The stories are interesting, to me, because the element of supernatural is perfectly expressed, even though some stories are set in the midst of Life's acid tests.

Education Programs

Today more and more institutions include First Nations culture as a curriculum component that's available to non-First Nations students. Even some universities in both Canada and the U.S. offer studies to a Ph.D. level, in First Nations Studies. And at some elementary schools there are artists who are willing to share their gift and skills to work with students. That's when students can learn to drum, dance, sing, and how to make and use regalia. Some schools will even host a potlatch and serve a traditional menu. And it's exciting to see a cultural play because they encapsulate our larger-than-life culture. The artist below is an example.

Victor Reece, Tsimpsian First Nations Master Mask Carver


I've noticed an interesting trend. Some traditional jewelry carvers embed precious stones like diamonds, rubies, sapphire, emeralds and semi-precious stones like turquoise in their work. I find this work simple, stunning and beautiful...


Totem designs are on all manner of household articles like bedding, pillow cases, kitchenware, blankets, picture and mirror frames, and wall plaques, etc., like the ones you’ll see below.

Chief Tsa-ci, Sammy Robinson, Master Carver, X'aisla First Nation

Family Events

Especially endearing are the abstract animal totem designs that are appliqued onto the wedding party's clothing, like the bride and bridesmaid's dresses, men's vests and ties, the ring holder children and they're even on the wedding rings too. In the video clip below, you’ll see ancient traditional designs from the turn of the century. The designs haven't changed...

A Traditional Wedding Party Delivering the Groom

Everyday clothing

Today animal totem designs are on purses, the lapels of every-day jackets and coats, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, rubber boots, etc.

Woven abstract animal designs are on household items like Pendleton blankets, etched onto pottery too. Seems that there's no limit to what the designs are displayed on. For instance, have you seen the front tip of baseball caps that are beaded? And that's not the only decorated trim on clothing. There's also designs on the pockets and collars of jeans jackets and the top edge of shirt pockets. Whatever you can think of, there’s a design for that!

On and inside real estate

Today you’ll see Native American abstract animal totem designs on murals on the outside and inside walls of federal, provincial and municipal buildings. And inside some buildings there are 30 to 60 foot carved totem poles and canoes too.

When you want to see even more quality for free, there's the International Airport at Vancouver, B.C., Canada, where space is dedicated to the cultural history of Native Americans. Smaller gift items are sold at their gift counter as well. Besides that, private collectors connect with Native American artists for private contracts.

Canada’s capital city of Ottawa has a ‘Museum of Civilization’ that houses countless collections of Our Ancient Ones that were taken during the Residential School era.

In the city of Vancouver, B.C., at the University of B.C., a Museum of Anthropology has abstract designs of Our Ancient Ones too and even has works of current artisans like X'aisla First Nations Master Carver, Lyle Wilson who has built his own shop where he lives in Vancouver, B.C. And, at this same campus there's a magnificent beautiful traditional designed building, the First Nations House of Learning, where First Nations students enroll to dedicate time for degrees and doctorates in different faculty's. Here's an additional historical post-script for you: acceptance into campus took our people twenty years of relentless political lobbying. I was in UBC's first 'Pilot' project...So nowadays we have our own specialists. I like to believe that exposure, to our history from our perspective, in educational institutions helps to combat institutionalized racism.

The Smithsonian Institute in New York City advertises that it is the 'Home to the largest and most diverse collections of Native American art and historical and cultural objects.' It even houses the bones of our Native American Ancient Ones and some communities are Repatriating their Ancestors bones for long overdue burial.

Internal Link

To 4-LEGGEDS from animal totem designs

Get Social!