Pts'aan (Totems)

Every pts’aan (“totem” or “crest” pole) is a list of ayukws (crests). Nisga’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. The carver must be properly thanked and the pole raising is celebrated 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. People take more notice of a chief and his wilp when they raise a pts’aan.

When the missionaries arrived, they mistakenly thought the pts’aan were statues of pagan gods worshipped by the Nisga’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. Today Nisga'a Nation remains one of the leading Nations amongst West Coast peoples in the art of carving and raising pts'aan as each Nisga'a Village now has several pts'aan in their communities many of which have been carved within the last 30 years.

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