Monday, August 26, 2013

Big Beaver Totem

Big Beaver Totem, 1982
Norman Tait
Museum Campus
In front of main entrance of Field Museum of Natural History
1400 South Lake Shore Drive

     This 55-foot cedar totem was carved by Tait, a member of Nishga’a Band, Tsimshian Tribe of British Columbia. This was his first permanent installation in the Americas and was commissioned by The Women’s Board of the Field Museum of Natural History in honor of the Museum’s permanent exhibit about the Maritime Peoples of the Artic and Northwest Coast. The monument explains Tait’s family ancestry through traditional story (Aadizookaan). Five brothers went on a beaver hunt that was successful, but two beavers escaped from them. The youngest brother, who was too young to hunt, followed the two beavers and helped them home. At the beaver lodge, the brother sees the beavers remove their pelts, revealing that they are really humans. He listens as the beavers tell their grandfather, the Beaver Chief, about how the rest of the family has been slaughtered. In full remorse, the youngest brother adopts the beaver for his family crest and his brothers agree never to hunt beavers again.

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