totem pole

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totem pole Carved and painted wooden column erected by the Native Americans of the Pacific Coast of the USA and Canada. They are carved with stylized representations of real and mythical animals and men. Their function is closer to that of heraldic crests than of religious symbols. They are usually erected as roof supports, as doorways, as symbols of greeting, as mortuary poles, or grave-markers.

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to·tem pole • n. a pole on which totems are hung or on which the images of totems are carved. ∎ fig. a hierarchy: the social totem pole.

totem pole