Pts’aan / Totem Pole

Every pts’aan is a list of ayukws (crests), which are visual representations of traditional histories. Nisg̱a’a raise pts’aan to tell about the history of their families and property. Traditionally, when a chief raised a pts’aan, he hosted a feast and told his adaawak (traditional history). 

Raising a pts’aan is a sign of wealth. After the sponsor properly thanks the carver, the community raises the pole and celebrates with a feast and many gifts to the master carver and assistants. The pole raising and the feast become the centre of attention for the whole community. 

When the missionaries arrived, they mistakenly thought the pts’aan were statues of pagan gods worshipped by the Nisg̱a’a. They decided that all pts’aan should be cut down. Many were burned, some were cut up and used as posts for new houses, others were shipped to museums around the world. 

Now, a new generation of Nisg̱a’a are raising pts’aan again.