Build a Totem Pole

American Indians of the West

Object Type: Interactive

Build a Totem Pole

Media: American Indians of the West

Your students will gain greater understanding of symbolism as they apply the practices of the American Indians of the West to their own lives.

Students can choose from several backgrounds using the "CANVAS" button. Each animal picture has a description of the Native American symbolic meaning of that animal. Click on the directional arrows to discover each meaning for each animal. Click on the "SELECT" button to turn the picture of the animal into a piece of the totem pole. The "REMOVE" button takes a section of the totem pole away to be redone.

This activity can be used for a whole class, in pairs/small groups or individually.

  • Whole Class: Teacher could use this opportunity to discuss vocabulary and work collaboratively to complete a class totem pole. There is no time limit. A large number of totem pole combinations can be created. Pairs/ Small Group: Create totem poles that represent a fictitious 'tribe' based on assigned characteristics from the teacher (i.e. teacher could provide descriptions of a tribe and the students would come up with a totem pole to represent their assigned tribe). Or they could create a totem pole to represent their group for other Native American activities to be completed in the class. Individual: Students could create totem poles that represent their individual families. All: It could also be used in reverse where the teacher could create a totem pole and have the students decode the meaning of the provided totem pole. The teacher could display the totem pole on the board and the students could scroll through the animals to determine what it means.
  • To extend the activity offline students could create their own meanings for various animals (i.e. their own key) and create paper totem poles for others to decode and guess who they represent. They could use the same animals and create tangible totem poles as well.

    Language Arts: Students could use the descriptions to create a totem pole to describe the characteristics of the main characters of a story or book.