British Columbia and the whole of northwest America have various native tribes who are known for the carving of totem poles. I haven't researched them at all so don't know about the symbols and what they mean, but I did see quite a few during our travels in BC recently.
So I thought I'd share some with you. I intend to paint a few sometime soon (if I actually put that in writing, then I HAVE to DO it!).
And I'll let the words of Emily Carr describe some of her first impressions of totems she saw on her journeys to the outer islands of British Columbia (off Vancouver Island); from Klee Wyck:
"On the base of this pole was a figure of a man; he had on a tell, tall hat, which was made up of sections, and was a hat of great honour. On the top of the hat perched a raven. Little figures of men were clinging to every ring of honour all the way up the hat. The story told that the man had adopted a raven as his son. The raven turned out to be a wicked trickster and brought a flood upon his foster parents. When the waters rose the man's nephews and relations climbed up the rings of his hat of honour and were thus saved from being drowned. It was a fine pole, bleached of all colour, and then blommed over again with greeny-yellow mold."
"A tall totem pole stood up against each house; in the center of its front...The lowest figure of the centre pole was a great eagle; the other two were beavers with immense teeth -- they held sticks in their hands. All three base figures had a hold through the pole so that the people could enter and leave the house through the totem."
Emily recorded many of the totem poles she saw standing, asking the native people their stories or histories (sometimes they would tell her, sometimes not, sometimes they told her whatever they thought would make her quit asking). She also painted many of the totems as she travelled around.