Arts

Totem-Land

In 1951, there was a move to brand British Columbia, that wandering northern chunk of Cascadia, as “Totem-Land.”

Top to Bottom: Eagle, British Columbia’s Coast (only), in the shape of a donut, and a bear.

Maybe it was a cunning move: to get everyone interested in Indigenous family trees that included more than just human ancestors, so that they could eventually be reclaimed. Plus, as the advertisement says, to promote goodwill.

Now, 70 years later, that goodwill is a little shaky, and you’d never be able to pull off a stunt like this. We have made progress.

How it would affect industry, I don’t know. Has that happened? Was there a plan to mass produce totems? And how was the population to be affected? Including the bulk of the population that lived outside of any culture of ancestral (totem) poles? Twenty years later, in 1971, people were rather in love with totem poles, that’s for sure. The City of Duncan even did a stint as “The Totem Pole Capital of Canada,” before taking them down and installing a giant hockey stick instead. As British Columbia is a theme park, you can’t just be a city, it seems.

That’s about $130 in 2021 dollars.

Back in 1951, you could buy a postage stamp metre from Pitney-Bowes and out of altruism put ads on all your mail. The deluxe model above, or the bargain version below.

Only $106 2021 dollars!

IThis wasn’t entirely an act of cultural appropriation, though. The British Columbia Native Brotherhood is in there. Look:

Sadly, only in an honorary capacity. It’s a White committee almost to the core, and one using families to promote businesses. I’m glad it never took off.

Or did it? Here’s an image from the B.C. government’s tourism site. You can, they promise, connect with “something bigger than yourself.”

If you can’t name a spiritual experience, I don’t think you should be selling it.

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