One of the very best parts of living on the West Coast of Canada is our heritage.  Sure, Canada is a new country in terms of the world, but before North America was found and settled our lands were inhabited for centuries, and these coast dwellers have left behind a rich and colorful heritage for us all to enjoy.

This post is dedicated to my friend Rob.  He has asked me before to try to photograph the wonderful totem poles in our area, up close and personal.  Today we share this endeavor.  I am by no means any form of an expert in these works but I believe the primary elements you will find on these poles are thunderbirds, eagles, whales, salmon, bears and people.  That is for certain not to say there are more elements, but these are the primary ones as far as I am aware.  Each pole tends to have more than one of these elements and tells a story of a clan or an event.  In many ways this was a form of historic documentation.  We are left with these incredible works.

Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

This plaque sits on the shore of the mighty Cowichan River and discusses the history of this river.  It is now officially designated as one of only several Canadian Heritage Rivers.  It is a very long, windy and powerful river  not to be trifled with.  The natural beauty and abundance this river has provided the people over the centuries make it one of the most important Canadian rivers still in existence today.

Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

I’m not exactly sure of the purpose of this shelter but it created such a dramatic and interesting element in contrast with the river backdrop, I just had to photograph it.  Everyone at the Fine Arts Show commented on the incredible green tinted color of the Cowichan River and this image really brings that to life.  A meandering path runs along the river, and it peppered with the historic totem poles that we will now take a closer look at.

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Totem Pole - Quw'utsun' Cultural & Conference Centre - Duncan BC Canada

Our little city of Duncan, BC also is home to many of these wonderful poles and Mrs. Toad and myself have many plans to capture these over the spring and summer of this year, so if this is something you are interested in please stay tuned for further installments.  We really hope you’ve enjoyed joining us today on our brief walk around the Quw’utsun’ facility and the Cowichan River taking in these historic totem poles.

Thanks so much for your visit today, please feel free to leave a comment as we really do love to hear from our visitors.




  1. So many stories to tell here, Toad. You’ve captured an art form; the mom and baby totem is priceless. Can’t wait for more!

  2. avatar Fred Norris says:

    Love those totem poles Toad!What an amazing cultural centre ,it looks like an incredible setting for an art show.

  3. Great shots of these totem poles, Toad!

  4. avatar Kristi Hines says:

    I feel like I’ve never actually seen these in person before, except maybe once while traveling. Great job capturing them – they are so colorful and detailed!

  5. avatar Jim Denham says:

    It’s great to see the entire pole cuz I’m usually on the bottom rung! Good stuff Toads! Next best thing to seeing them in person!

  6. avatar A.Barlow says:

    These are really freaking cool! Don’t each of these animal representations and their placements mean a different thing? Also, is it just me, but the styles of about half of them look like they might be different tribes?

    • I believe they are all from the same tribe, there were plaques all around the site talking about Chief Zhouhalem; he has a mountain named after him, apparently he was a VERY fierce chief. I believe they span over quite a time period however, and perhaps the difference in styles we see are progressions of the artists over the years? That’s just a wild guess. And yes, you are absolutely correct, the placement and types are all laid out carefully; they either tell a story of an event or symbolize a happening in a family. One of the poles was created to celebrate a marriage between two families if I recall. Now, as mentioned before, I am not an expert so I could be wrong on some of these details here!!

      Really appreciate your visit and comments today, Aaron, thank you so much for your ongoing support & friendship!!

  7. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    Those are some pretty awesome totem poles. I have actually never seen one of these in person. Really awesome work Toad!

  8. I have adored totem poles my whole life and yet have seen very few in person. I absolutely love this post! Great Work Toad!

  9. avatar Anna Soffia Oskarsdottir says:

    So different, so many details. Having read everything about native Americans translated to Icelandic as adolecent I have very soft spot for this beautifull art in my heart. Thank you for this great series

  10. avatar Tom Barnett says:

    So cool. So well done. These are a great subject. Good stuff, Toads! Looking forward to seeing more of them.

  11. avatar Jerry Denham says:

    I tell ya, Toad, these shots you have gotten from this conference center are incredible my friend. Awesome color and processing here along with some neat heritage. Well done.