What is it about?
The Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung believed that instincts take on patterns in the human mind which can be found in all human cultures, past and present. These patterns he called "archetypes." My mother was Cherokee, and I grew up in Seattle surrounded by totemic images. I believe that examples of Jung's archetypes can be found in the stories and totem poles of the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. I chose to focus on the Haida of British Columbia because they were among the last to be influenced by European culture and the first to be recorded by professional ethnologists. Many consider their large cedar totem poles to be artistically the finest, and their miniature argillite totems are unique to them. Two contemporary ethnologists, Wilson Duff and George MacDonald, have explored the meaning of Haida art using terms which tightly parallel Jung's archetypes.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Why is it important?
For too long Western culture has considered the First Peoples as "primitive." We think of them as stuck in an early evolutionary stage which we have grown out of. I argue that their art shows a psychological development on par with our own, if only we accept that their idiom of expression is different from ours.
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This page is a summary of: Archetypal images in Haida art, International Journal of Jungian Studies, October 2017, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/19409052.2017.1390482.
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