Two small girls and two tall totem poles

1970s

Two small girls and two tall totem poles

Era: 

  • 1968 - 1982
  • totem pole looking upwards

    Here is the neck-craning view

  • Mohawk family in display case

    A Mohawk family group

When I was growing up, every summer my grandmother would take my sister and me and do the rounds of the Toronto attractions. Ontario Place, the Science Centre, the AGO, the Zoo...every Friday we would go on an outing. (It didn't occur to me until much later that Grandma probably didn't look forward to the CNE day.)

I always liked going to the ROM because it took me into new worlds. One of the things I remember most vividly is the dioramas depicting scenes from the everyday lives of the Native North Americans. I used to peer into those cases and wonder what life would be like. Did they get cold in winter? Was there always a smell of woodsmoke? Did they like the food they ate?

The other thing I remember well is the giant totem poles. Somehow they were the punctuation mark for every visit. My sister and I used to crane our necks and look up, up, and marvel at how these could have been produced by ordinary people like the adults we knew. I used to imagine rainy forests full of towering trees, waiting to be carved and for the stories and animals inside them to be revealed, but at the same time not wanting to be chopped down.

Now it's almost 40 years later. My Grandma is gone, my sister has two kids of her own, and I'm now aware of deforestation, questions of First Nations representation, and invasive insects. But I still like looking up at those totem poles.

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