Totems Pitted Against Explorers

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Pablo Edronkin

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Totems and riches are more associated between each other than what we would superficially appreciate most of the times.

From an anthropological view, a totem is considered as a mark or signal of a taboo; among the Indians of the Yukon and Alaska, the totems are like coats of arms of clans, families and tribes. They tell a story and portray important symbols much like European heraldics, albeit with their own cultural, religious and traditional undertones.

The word totem was used originally to describe the giant poles of carved wood that the Indians placed in the boreal forests and plains of North America, but the use of the word was extended to describe all sorts of symbols that share general characteristics, being the most important one that they are tall. So we have 'totems' in Central America, among the Vikings, in Africa and so on; however, these are not true totems in the original sense of the word.

Doubtlessly, these monuments are of a great historical, artistic and social value; but they worth a fortune too, albeit it is rather hard to buy a totem for personal use and for those outside the Indian culture, they would never have the same meaning, of course, because of the religious aspects related to the construction and dedication of totems.

But curiously enough, the original totems are found in a region that in the past saw the gold rush and all the adventurers that dreamed with becoming rich overnight there. Not many managed to get rich, albeit some fortunes were indeed made. Most have to return home with no money in their pockets, and some could not even survive the harsh realities of boreal latitudes.

And then, even the totems were blamed: some believed that the fact that they could not fin anything was related to curses placed by the Indians using the totems, for the plundering or their ancestral territories.

All in all, it is interesting to note that totems worked pretty well as psychological warfare measures that guaranteed in the end the survival of some indigenous populations in Alaska and the Yukon.

Totemic value? Indeed, contraptions of this kind may scare superstitious individuals.
Totemic value? Indeed, contraptions of this kind may scare superstitious individuals.

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