Northwest Coast Bookends

07 Aug

There are a number of bookends that show Northwest-Coast Indian totem figures or alternatively totem poles. Totems were animals or anthropomorphic beings that each Indian clan adopted for their own.  Each totem was endowed with mythical powers, and each totem could theoretically help its clan, but the clan treated them more like mascots or heraldic crests than Gods.  They were shown on house poles or implements and also on poles made from red cedar logs.

The most spectacular pair of totem-figure bookends were those produced by Marion Bronze which showed a polychrome bear sitting with tongue protruding, a recognizable pose for the bear totem.

Photo of Marion Bronze Bear Totem Bookends

Bear Totem bookends from Marion Bronze.  Electroformed bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Inscribed with the conjoined MB shopmark. Circa 1960.

Bears frequently appear in the Totem Poles of the Northwest Coast Tribes.  There is a Haida/Tshimshian   story which tells of an Indian woman who mated with a bear and produced half-bear half-human sons.  Bears and humans could transform into each other so this was no problem.  An argillite carving from the Northwest Coast Indians is shown here to give another view of legendary bears.

Photo of Bear Mother Argillite Carving

Bear mother legend.  The woman is shown upside down giving birth to a bear.  Two bears stand by.  Argillite. Height 6.5 inches.  Nineteenth century.

There are a number of bookends of Northwest Coast totem poles.  Here is a pair that shows an eagle sitting above a bear. The geometric aspects identify it as Art deco.  Circa 1930.  Inscribed Cygnus Inc., Edmonds, Washington.


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