Traveling through the Pacific Northwest, you can’t help but notice all of the totem poles that decorate the landscape, and many can be found in Vancouver  and on Vancouver Island . All totem poles are made of red (or occasionally yellow) cedar painted black, blue, red, white, and yellow, using colored pigment derived from minerals, plants, and salmon roe. They are erected as validation of a public record or documentation of an important event.
Six types of poles are believed to have evolved in the following order: house post (an integral part of the house structure), mortuary post (erected as a chief’s or shaman’s grave, often with the bones or ashes in a box at the top), memorial post (commemorating special events), frontal post (a memorial or heraldic pole), welcome post, and shame post. None is an object of worship; each tells a story or history of a person’s clan or family. The figures on the pole represent family lineage, animals, or a mythical character.
Since a government ban on potlatch ceremonies — of which the raising of totem poles is an integral part — was lifted in 1951, the art form has been revived. Over the years, many totem poles have been relocated from their original sites. Both historical and more modern poles can be viewed in Vancouver.
Stanley Park  has a small collection of authentic totem poles. They were collected from along the coast in the early 1900s and are mostly the work of the Kwagiulth, who lived on the mainland opposite the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The poles currently stand near Brockton Point.
The world’s best collection of totem poles is housed inside the Museum of Anthropology, on the University of British Columbia campus  at Point Grey.
In Victoria , Thunderbird Park  holds a small collection of totem poles close to the main tourist area. To see totem poles that stand where they were originally raised, plan on traveling up Vancouver Island to tiny Alert Bay , a Kwakiutl village on Cormorant Island. Here poles rise from the local burial ground and from beside a traditional bighouse.
Three Gitskan-style poles can be viewed at the Plaza of Nations in Vancouver, while a 30-meter (100-foot) Kwagiulth-style pole towers over the entrance to the Vancouver Maritime Museum , and a replica of a pole from the Haida village of Skedans greets visitors at the Douglas Border Crossing south of downtown.
If you’d like your own totem pole, head to Hill’s Native Art (165 Water St., Vancouver, 604/685-4249) or search out the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery (1024 Mainland St., Yaletown, Vancouver, 604/685-9298) and expect to pay up to $15,000 for a four-meter (13-foot) pole.