Native American Totem Poles
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Print Native American Totem Poles Reading Comprehension
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 4 to 6
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||baby-raven, ovoid, totem, artistic, historical, feat, ochre, phrase, charcoal, clan, artists, natural, carving, mystery, upright, poles
||Native American, Native Americans, Sky Realm, Underwater City, Even Native Americans, In Northwestern, Pacific Northwest, In Kake, Alert Bay
Native American Totem Poles
By Colleen Messina
1 If you saw a telephone pole with carved faces and designs on it, it might seem a little strange. But if you saw a tall, carved cedar pole, you would be seeing beautiful Native American art. Native Americans figured out a way to make cedar trees into incredible totem poles that preserved their history and stunned European explorers.
2 Totem poles told stories about Indian chiefs, families, historical events, or legends. A "totem" is a symbol used by Native American families or clans. Each group used a different animal for its totem. The word "totem" came from a word that meant, "to be related to someone," and totem poles became an important part of Native American culture since they had no written history.
3 One famous totem pole told the story of a raven that brought sunshine to Earth. A long time ago, the world was dark. The raven, a smart bird, knew that a family had stolen the sun and had hidden it in a box in their house. The raven decided to become a baby so the family would adopt him. He had the perfect plan to annoy his family into giving him the precious box. He cried all the time so he could get the box.
4 The family got tired of the baby screaming all the time. They knew that he wanted the box. They decided to give it to him so that he would stop crying. When no one was looking, the baby-raven turned back into his real raven self and flew away. He flew out into the world carrying the box. He opened it up, and sunlight burst over the whole Earth.
5 Other totem pole legends had unusual characters that rivaled 20th century super heroes. The Thunderbird was the grand lord of the Sky Realm. He ate whales and liked dance ceremonies, although he probably could not dance too well right after eating a whale! He had a dumb brother named Kolus. Another creature, the Whale, ruled the Underwater City. He lived there with other strange creatures. Bear, Beaver, Wolf, Frog, and even Mosquito were also on totem poles. It is hard to imagine that an Indian family would want the mosquito as a totem, though.
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