From the Pole vault...
March 15, 2006 10:26 AM   Subscribe

For Shame, For Shame!
posted by gilgamix (13 comments total)
you know, I'm tired of these axe grinding political posts.

oh wait. nevermind. I'd never heard of these things before. really interesting. thanks.
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 AM on March 15, 2006

Hey - I learned something new today! Thank you!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:59 AM on March 15, 2006

Yeah, the link about the pole carved by the (recent) muderer is very interesting.
posted by everichon at 11:17 AM on March 15, 2006

As a Pole, I am sick of feeling ashamed. We're really not that stupid!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:49 AM on March 15, 2006

Interesting, completely new to me - thank you.
I have seen the poles at the anthropology museum in Vancouver. This further extends my knowledge. Interesting how the thief white man was shown with curly hair.
posted by adamvasco at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2006

I actually wrote a term paper about shame poles and objects of ridicule last fall for my Ethnographic Art course. I got interested in them after reading about the Lincoln and Seward shame poles in Alaska in Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. I do not claim to be an expert on them, but generally, the society was set up on the basis of status of clans, and maintaining that status. The specific clans held potlaches, which were extravagent events where they would give away all of their possessions to show their wealth and status. It was here that they would introduce crest poles, also known as totem poles. Shaming members of other clans was a big deal, it dealt with the status issue as well as being a huge insult to the clans. Violence occurred in many instances due to shame poles.

In this specific case, the exact reason behind the Lincoln poles, from what I found were not known. There were a few theories, including the commemoration of the emancipation proclamation, but I don't know if there is an exact answer. Kind of like where the word Hoosier comes from. Supposedly Secretary of State William Seward, of Seward's folly fame, earned a shame pole when he attended a potlach thrown for him. There he received some pretty expensive gifts, canoes, furs, foods, and tons of it. He never returned the favor, a big insult, and was forever branded with shame.

Anyways, this is all coming from a Senior undergraduate design student, so take it all with a grain of salt.

If any of you are interested in learning a bit more, you can check out my paper at
posted by Sreiny at 12:25 PM on March 15, 2006

Still the Squaxin Island tribe held a "blessing" ceremony last week to "cancel any negative energy that may be surrounding the pole as a result of its past," said Charlene Krise of the Squaxin tribal museum.

Well, that's all better then, I guess.
posted by illovich at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2006

Can a Bush shame pole be far behind?
posted by Yer-Ol-Pal at 12:56 PM on March 15, 2006

yer ol pal et al...Can we lay off the Bush bashing in every gol dang thread? jeesh!
posted by Gungho at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2006

posted by Astro Zombie at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2006

I think 34% probably qualifies as a "shame pole."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:33 PM on March 15, 2006

Excellent post, gilgamix - very interesting stuff, thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:39 PM on March 15, 2006

I had the exact same thought as Yer-Ol-Pal. Sorry, but it's tough to forget about Bush.

I suppose the determined could also make some kind of "shame pole" pun related to Bill Clinton.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:04 PM on March 15, 2006

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