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American Indian Fetishes & Totems

One of the most iconic creations of American Indian cultures is that of the totem pole. From monumental installations to smaller scale decorative versions, the totem pole showcases the carving skill and cultural impact of American Indian art. They began as an artistic tradition of the Pacific Northwest tribes as a means of visual story telling.

Each pole was a means to relay a narrative, and its composition, similar to a poem, allowed for the harmonious combination of different characters, including humans and animals. These vibrant characters were typically complemented with rich color and patterning, exhibiting the finesse of American Indian wood carvers in conveying these creatures. While the characters included in a totem’s motif might be recognizable, the full story intended to be shared was only known by the creator, which was then passed down generation by generation.

While totems can refer to universal themes, there is a secret depth imbued in each design that ties back to a family’s or a tribe’s experiences. Even without this insider knowledge, though, totem poles today are recognized universally as brilliant examples of artistry.


Quick Facts

  • Most original totem poles are carved from redwood and, aside from souvenir size versions, range in height from 4 to over 75 feet
  • The colors on authentic totem poles are typically derived from natural sources. Ground minerals added various colors, and they were suspended in an oily mixture conjured from ground salmon eggs
  • The colors as well all hold symbolic connotations. White, for example, can refer to purity or death, while black references power or control

Recommended Items at Auction

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Zuni Inlaid Fetish
Feb 26, 10:00 AM EST
Zuni Inlaid Fetish
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$177 Bids
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Bear Fetish
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Bear Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $50- $75
$255 Bids
Zuni Jade Fetish Bear
Feb 26, 10:00 AM EST
Zuni Jade Fetish Bear
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$114 Bids
Zuni Wolf Effigy Fetish, 3"L x 1"
Feb 24, 1:00 PM EST
Zuni Wolf Effigy Fetish, 3"L x 1"
by Homestead Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$103 Bids
Zuni Carved Owl Antler Fetish
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Zuni Carved Owl Antler Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$203 Bids
Zuni Turtle Fetish Effigy , 2 3/4" x 1 3/4"
Feb 24, 1:00 PM EST
Zuni Turtle Fetish Effigy , 2 3/4" x 1 3/4"
by Homestead Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$253 Bids
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Bear Fetish
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Bear Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$152 Bids
Signed Zuni Fetish Bear W Silver Inlay
Feb 26, 10:00 AM EST
Signed Zuni Fetish Bear W Silver Inlay
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$52 Bids
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Turtle Fetish
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Turtle Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$101 Bid
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Owl Fetish
Mar 01, 9:00 AM MST
Zuni Indian Carved Stone Owl Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$101 Bid
Zuni Fetish Bear
Feb 26, 10:00 AM EST
Zuni Fetish Bear
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$11 Bid
Plains Native American Indian Beaded Knife Sheath
Mar 03, 9:00 AM MST
Plains Native American Indian Beaded Knife Sheath
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $100- $150
$101 Bid
Signed Zuni Bird Feitsh
Feb 26, 10:00 AM EST
Signed Zuni Bird Feitsh
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$11 Bid
Warrior Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture
Feb 26, 9:00 PM EST
Warrior Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $650- $850
$4500 Bids
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
Feb 26, 9:00 PM EST
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $600- $900
$3500 Bids
Warrior Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture
Feb 26, 9:00 PM EST
Warrior Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $650- $850
$4500 Bids
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
Mar 01, 9:00 PM EST
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $600- $900
$3500 Bids
Peter Hayes Raku totem on a slate base. Signed Peter Hayes to base and dated 1999, height 36cm.
Mar 07, 10:00 AM GMT
Peter Hayes Raku totem on a slate base. Signed Peter Hayes to base and dated 1999, height 36cm.
by Potteries Auctions
Est: £150- £300
£1500 Bids
NORTHWEST COAST, 19TH - EARLY 20TH C. TOTEM POLE
Feb 25, 11:00 AM EST
NORTHWEST COAST, 19TH - EARLY 20TH C. TOTEM POLE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $1,200- $1,400
$6000 Bids
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
Mar 18, 9:00 PM EDT
Signed Original Totem Pole Bronze Sculpture - 14" x 7"
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $600- $900
$3500 Bids
Northwest Coast model of a totem pole
Mar 07, 10:00 AM EST
Northwest Coast model of a totem pole
by Millea Bros Ltd
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
Carved Amazonite Buffalo Fetish
Mar 02, 9:00 AM MST
Carved Amazonite Buffalo Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $100- $150
$100 Bids
TWO TOTEMS BY CHARLIE JAMES (1867-1938).
Mar 09, 11:00 AM EST
TWO TOTEMS BY CHARLIE JAMES (1867-1938).
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
Carved Stone Bighorn Sheep Fetish
Mar 03, 9:00 AM MST
Carved Stone Bighorn Sheep Fetish
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $25- $50
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Fetishes & Totems


Davis Brothers Auction

Davis Brothers Auction

Berner's Auction Gallery

Berner's Auction Gallery

Weatherham Estate Treasures

Weatherham Estate Treasures

Homestead Auctions

Homestead Auctions