How to Make a Totem Pole Craft

By Amma Marfo

Making a totem pole is a simple craft for children to incorporate into a lesson on Native Americans. Known for being a tower that represents ancestral family history, the totem pole depicts both human faces as well as the imagery of animal spirits, such as bears, eagles, otters, wolves and whales, just to name a few. Before you turn the totem pole into a craft, think about the people in your life and what animals could be used to represent them.

List of Items Needed

  • Cardboard tube
  • Brown paper
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Markers or crayons
  • Glitter, sequins, feathers or other embellishments
  • Glue
  • Construction paper (optional)
  1. Gather a paper towel tube or the cardboard canister from a can of chips to be your base. Wrap a piece of brown paper around it to fully cover the height of the tube. Allow the paper to overlap by 1 inch in the back and cut off any excess.

  2. Spread the paper out flat with the height of the paper running vertically. Draw three or four evenly spaced horizontal lines across the paper using a pencil.

  3. Draw the features of a face in the center of each horizontal strip with markers or crayons. Use human or animal faces, including eyes, a nose and mouth or beak. Color the faces with markers or crayons as desired.

  4. Add extra embellishments to the faces by gluing on glitter, sequins, feathers or other items. Incorporate decorations that will accurately express the type of person or animal of each strip.

  5. Wrap the paper around the cardboard tube with the faces stacked over one another. Glue the overlapping portion of paper in the back to secure the paper to the tube.

  6. Cut out sets of wings or arms from colorful construction paper, if desired. This should be one long piece which includes both arms or wings set on opposite sides. Draw on the wings or arms as desired. Glue the middle of the wing or arm unit to the brown paper along the back of the tube.

  7. Allow all glue to dry thoroughly for 2 to 3 hours to secure the items to the paper and tube.

Tips and Warnings

  • To make totems for large groups of children, cut the strips along the drawn pencil lines of Step 2 and let each child decorate one or two strips. The finished project will be totems featuring multiple children’s work.

© Demand Media 2011