Saturday, September 17, 2011

Low Man on the Totem Pole and Shame Poles

Over the years, I've often used the term "low man on the totem pole" to describe an individual or organization that appears less important than others, but while in Alaska recently, I realized that expression is not necessarily true. The vertical order of images does not represent any significance at all. In fact there is a counterargument that the figures are arranged in a "reverse hierarchy" style, with the most important representations being on the bottom, and the least important being on top.

Sometimes, a town may erect a “Shame Pole” to publicly embarrass, humiliate and shame an individual or organization. On March 24, 2007 a Shame Pole was erected in Cordova, Alaska. On the pole was an effigy of Lee Raymond, Exxon ex-CEO who stood down after the oil spill in Valdez, Alaska.