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Woodcarving - totem poles - hobby v.s. native American culture


Native American Totem Poles

Poles from Canada

Poles from Alaska

Prince of Wales Island 1901

NPS photo (US Goverrment)

Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis in 1904

Scouting wood carving hobby

Build a totem pole to be erected at the summer camp

I am not sure when totem poles were first used by youth programs in the United States of America. First appearance in BSA may have been 1929 or earlier.

  • Scouting for Boys*, by Robert Baden-Powell, 1908 (Dover book), “POCAHONTAS; or, THE CAPTURE OF CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH” play has illustrations of Scouts dressed as warriors and the chief, but no totem pole.
  • Boy Scouts of America Service Library - Series D, “Totem poles - A happy hobby for boys”, by Robert W. de Groat, with drawings by the author, No. 3196, Copyright 1929, Boy Scouts of America.

Drawing, part of book cover, by Robert W. de Groat, Copyright 1929, Boy Scouts of America.

Bill_W note: Need to find and review the “authentic totem poles arranged by tribe” chapter in de Groat (1929) book.

Totemism (religious and non-religious views)

How totemism is described varies by the author (religious or non-religious)

davidEPPS response 6/25/2020.

Carving totem poles is quite the Boy Scout tradition.

(Thank you David for doing an online search for BSA references,)

Native American History and Culture

Totemism is a belief about the relationship between people and nature. The term totem comes from an Ojibwe word meaning “a relative of mine”. It was first written about in 1791 by a trader, James Long. It has been recorded across native tribes of America, Africa and Australia. It has been the subject of much research into ethnic groups

An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other, usually on the basis of presumed similarities such as a common language, ancestry, history, society, culture, nation or social treatment within their residing area.

As to the question, hobby v.s. native American culture?

There exists in scouting a “belief about the relationship between people and nature.” in a “category of people who identify with each other,”

By definition totem poles constructed by scouts is like a hobby but is more akin to lore, "body of knowledge or tradition.

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