Encyclopedia Article


A totem is a natural object, often in the shape of an animal, which symbolizes someone’s familial or spiritual connection to a group, extended family, or clan. This extended network of care and awarness manifests as an external form of empowerment that implicitly informs the daily lives of those for whom the totem is significant. Totem is a word derived or taken from the Ojibway word "ototeman," meaning "one's brother-sister kin," and was popularized during the late 19th-century craze for the new discipline of anthropology.

In addition to being objects found in nature, totems can also be carved objects or pieces of jewelry that are kept with people for protection.

Photo Credit: 

"Grand Canyon Split-Twig Totem Figurine (13256f)," photograph taken November11, 2010 by Grand Canyon National Park is licensed under CC BY.

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