Native American totem poles are sculptures that indigenous artists carve into trees. People carve and paint the polls with symbols or figures, such as animals. Originally, Native Americans believed that the totem poles watched over the family, clan or tribe.
Totem poles often depict characters of a story or legend. Sometimes they commemorate cultural beliefs, family lineages or events that are important to a particular clan. Totem poles also serve as welcome signs for visitors or vessels to contain the remains of dead ancestors. Some totem poles are created to mock or ridicule someone publicly. Most totem poles are located in the Pacific Northwest.