Monday, November 12, 2012

City of Totems

The city of Duncan on the island of Vancouver is known for its collection of totem poles.  All you have to do is follow the yellow footprints for a delightful self-guided tour.  We stopped here twice.  The first time we donned our ponchos and set out in the rain.  My travel buddy was a good sport about it.  It was a pretty darn miserable experience, I have to tell you.  But the second time, the sun was out and the sky was blue.  I got a much better look at Thunderbird and Bear-Mother.

The Thunderbird sits on top of many totem poles.  A giant Whale once inhabited the seas and he had such a voracious appetite, he ate all the fish.  The humans begged him to stop, but he refused.  The Chiefs performed rituals to call upon the great powers of the Thunderbird.  They could not, however, utter his name out loud, so they put images of him on totem poles.  Thunderbird was pleased.  He appeared out of the clouds, snatched up Whale with his talons and took him away.

First Nation stories abound on these artistic poles.    The totems around Duncan embrace these stories, but there are also fine examples of other types.  There are poles honoring heroic events and honoring the dead.  There are a few carved in a more contemporary manner, and others that are almost comical. 

Besides the walking tour of the totem poles, Duncan has many fine shops and restaurants.  The Garage turned out to be our favorite.  It is a restaurant, book store and gourmet grocery all housed in one big orange building.  After the rain, we stopped in for a delicious bowl of homemade soup and bought food for a motel picnic that night.  Rain or shine, Duncan is a great place to explore.

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