Historical information

Wayne Alfred is a member of the Namgis Tribe of the Kwakwaka'wakw people. As a master carver he has an extremely high level of carving skill and knowledge about his peoples cultural objects, customs, tribal stories and legends. The Totem Poles of the North Pacific Coast in British Columbia and Alaska are traditionally carved out of red or yellow cedar, which has a spiritual and practical purpose. The wood was known for its durability, its resistance to rotting and the inner bark was utilised in ropemaking, clothing, hats, baskets and so forth. The Kwakitul People consider the cedar tree to be among the most sacred of all things provided by the Creator. They believed the Cedar tree to be the axis of the world and a pathway to the upper world. The wood is shaped using implements such as adzes, axes, chisels, carving knives, and chainsaws. Misinterpreted as Gods and idols to be worshipped, totems usually serve six purposes, such as a house pillar for support, a memorial or mortuary pole to commemorate (and house) the deceased, a potlatch pole (used for important traditional indigenous celebrations), a ridicule pole used to shame and a heraldic or family crest pole. Characters and symbols on these totem poles usually display family crests, history, wealth, social rank, inheritance, and privilege, as well as animalistic imagery derived from native animals and mythological creatures. Their sequence are indicative of past family events, ancestors, myths, and heraldic crests, with the bottom figure usually being the most prominent. In this work the 'thunderbird' is symbolic of power, strength and of ancestory.


The Commonwealth Games Totem Pole was presented to the people of Nillumbik on behalf of the Canadian Government in recognition of Melbourne as the hosts of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Team in 2006.

Physical description

Carved in cedar wood, this totem pole incorporates bold cuts and colours (such as red and green) offset by strong black. A relative degree of realism is used to depict the alligator located on the bottom of the pole, a man and a 'thunderbird'/eagle located on the top. With protuding element.

Inscriptions & markings

No inscriptions. Bold cuts used to outline the characters and symbols as well as decorative and stylised features all over the pole.