In this post, I am highlighting just a few totem poles of British Columbia—there are so many more, each with a distinct story to tell. The province of BC is home to more than 200 distinct First Nations—a third of all of Canada. Totem poles are unique monuments usually carved from large trees and typically embody significant historical narratives. They are used to depict spiritual reverence, family legends, sacred beings or historical events of First Nations people and can be found in many areas of BC. If you happen to be in these areas, go check them out. Most of the ones I mention below are in the lower mainland and Vancouver Island but there are so many more totem poles throughout BC. When I was in my teens I visited Ksan Village and spent some time watching a master carver creating a new totem pole. I would love to drive north again and see all of this with fresh eyes. Please comment below and tell me of ones you’ve seen that I need to go visit. I’ll update this post as I see more!
British Columbia is home to Métis and more than 200 distinct First Nations – one-third of all the Indigenous people in Canada. ~ indigenoustourism.ca
Totem poles and aboriginal carvings are scattered throughout YVR airport particularly the terminal. Such incredible works of art add to the travel experience of visitors. If you have a layover, use this as an opportunity to check out the various totem poles at the airport before sightseeing in the city.
Stanley Park, Vancouver
This Canadian National Historic Site boasts the First Nations totem poles which are the most visited attraction in Vancouver and possibly all of Canada! After you have seen these beautiful works of art, make sure to indulge in some of the tours that are offered. For instance, there is the Stanley Park Bicycle Tour, the Stanley Park Talking Trees Tour and the Stanley Park Indigenous History Guided Tour. You can also check out Lions Gate Bridge which is the historic link between downtown Vancouver and the North Shore and of course feel free to stroll in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge is a beautiful infusion of Canadian history. Here you can find a collection of totem poles made by First Nations of BC and take part in many tours offered. Visitors can walk onto the 450-foot (137-metre) suspension bridge which sways between the rain forest trees over the beautiful Capilano River. There are also kid-friendly guided nature walks, the TreeTops Adventure as well as smaller, suspension bridges strung between eight towering Douglas fir trees.
Totem Park is a great place to check out historic totem poles. This park is centrally located along the promenade at White Rock Beach as a tribute to the Semiahmoo First Nation, as it rests on their land. Totem Park is also known as Chief Bernard Memorial Plaza. Within this area, you can stroll the promenade, visit White Rock museum or even relax on the beach. You can take it up a notch and go on a sea tour or whale watching activity.
Established in 1941 Thunderbird Park in Victoria has a lovely display of totem poles from the provincial museum’s collection. Additionally, there is a wide range of things to see and do right there, for instance, the guided tours are many as well as beaches and lakes, gardens and parks, cathedrals and museums. The activities are endless within this location.
Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, is home to what was at one point the tallest totem pole in the world which stands at 38.9 metres (128 feet). It is however now the fourth tallest pole worldwide.
This small city on Vancouver Island has the most totem poles I have personally seen in one location, and is aptly designated “The City of Totems”. Visitors can take a walking tour and see these works of art close up. The photo for this article is one of many from Duncan.
The world’s largest 173-foot tall wooden totem pole can be found in Alert Bay on the north section of Vancouver Island. It is demonstrably the tallest totem pole of its kind globally. While in Alert Bay, get in the mood for its culture and history and visit the galleries, public library and museum and the Namgis Original Burial grounds. Though visitors are not allowed on this burial ground, the memorial totem poles are visible from the road.
Haida Gwaii (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands)
Totem poles in Haida Gwaii represent the rich history of the Haida Nation. Here the largest grouping of these totem poles is found in the ancient village of Ninstints. Totem poles are also within other ancient village sites, including Hotspring Island which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a favourite stop for kayakers around the Southern region of the archipelago. Haida Gwaii’s totem poles are also evident just outside of Skidegate in Kaay Llnangaay at the Haida Heritage Centre.
In Haida Gwaii, you can experience its beautiful beaches, forests, wildlife, and of course the Pacific Ocean. You can hit the hiking trails and absorb the breathtaking views. A dramatic volcanic cliff can be found on the blowhole trail.
If you have read this far I’ll remind you again to please comment below and tell me of ones you’ve seen that I need to go visit. I’ll update this post as I see more! Thanks!