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© McCord Museum
Totem pole
Northwest Coast
Aboriginal: Haida
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1860, 19th century
Cedar wood
1051.6 x 119.4 cm
Gift of Dr. Frank Buller
© McCord Museum


This frontal pole, or "gayang", stood at the entrance to the Drum House in the Haida village of Masset on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. This was a dwelling of the Point Town lineage led by the chief whose Haida name translates as "gambling sticks". The original house was built of split cedar planks and had decorative scalloped edging along the gables and corner posts. Although many frontal poles were painted, this one apparently never was.

The figures carved on the pole are crests which serves as visual statements of the house chief's ancestry, rights and privileges. The crests on this frontal pole are (from top to bottom): a bear on potlatch cylinders, a standing grizzly bear with extended tongue, a human figure and an eagle between the bear's legs and arms, a standing grizzly bear with extended tongue holding a frog and a raven with a long beak holding a human figure. As there are many variations on the stories associated with particular crests, we cannot be certain of the original meaning of the pole. Today, poles are once again being carved and raised by the Haida in the village of Masset.

© Musée McCord Museum