Indigenous Art Collection

Totem Cross

Poplar (289.8 x 204.24 cm)

Christian tradition is rich in imagery. The New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit as appearing in the form of a dove and in parted tongues of fire. Catacomb and church art of the early Christian centuries depicted the victory of the cross with diverse symbols. Indeed, Thomas Aquinas’ eucharistic poetry acclaims Jesus as “holy pelican”, a bird said to tear open its breast to feed its starving young. To most of the Indian peoples of North America, the Thunderbird is a powerfully awesome messenger of the great God. Here, Thunderbird is the sacred sign of God’s force-filled entry into the world.

God’s eyes watch from the four directions, from above and below, from both wings, saying that God is all around us at all times. All races, black and yellow, red and white, are represented in the four colors taken from nature and found in the earth-circle and all over Thunderbird. Christ-as-Thunderbird, in dying for us, restores happiness and understanding; he fills us with new dignity and great richness.

The chip marks all over remind us of the old days when axes were not known and ivory and stone were used instead. The black color comes from the charcoal of campfires; the white from volcanic ash; and the red from the clay of the riverbank.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Athapaskan of Tlingit origin