LISTENING 6 “ANTHROPOLOGY CLASS”
Narrator Listen to part of a discussion in an anthropology class. The professor is talking about totem poles.
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Some of the largest and most elaborate totem poles are those carved by the Haida people who live on Queen Charlotte Island about 150 kilometers west of the coast of British Columbia, as well as on the smaller islands along the West Coast of Canada. These islands are densely covered with huge red cedar trees that have served for many years as the material for the poles. Some of the totem poles are as tall as the trees themselves.
Historically, the Haida have carved and raised the totem poles for several important reasons … to honor an elder who’s died, to record family ancestry and the accomplishments of the clan, to serve as a reminder for ancient stories that are part of an oral tradition, and … to recognize a person who’s sponsored a Potlach ceremony. As an aside, the PotJach is a celebration that indudes feasting and the exchange of gifts. There might also be singing, story telling, and dancing, and I’ll go into that more a bit later in the semester.
But back to the significance of the totem poles. When you see a totem pole, it’s obvious that the carvings depict figures of animals and humans, stacked one on top of the other. It’s probably less clear that the selection and placement of the carved figures is deeply symbolic. So to really understand how important the totem poles are in Haida culture and to have an insight into the symbolism, I want you to think about all of the symbols in a European coat of arms. For example, the Coat of Aims of Canada includes a unicorn and a lion, a fleur de lis, and maple leaves. What’s the point? Anyone? Come on. I’ll give you one guess.
Do you mean that this coat of arms is a symbol… uh, I mean it identifies the people of Canada?
Precisely. And that’s what a totem pole does as well. It identifies the people of the family or clan or village in a symbolic way. The raven and the eagle are usually incorporated in the pole because the Haida people traditionally belong to one or the other of these two important clans. Other animals may recall a time before people lived on the earth, when birds and animals talked with each other and supernatural events explained history and provided examples for religious teachings.
But some symbols and the stories associated with them .. these are known only to the owner of the pole, and of course, to the carver. Although some symbolic meanings are repeated, such as the association of healing power with the wolf or dignity with the bear, still, it’s just not possible to recreate a story merely by looking at the pole. So. unless the stories are passed down to relatives or recorded by an anthropologist, then the meaning attached to an individual totem pole can be … lost.
Excuse me, I keep thinking about that old expression, low man on the totem pole. How does that fit in … to the symbolism, I mean.
I knew someone would bring that up. Okay. Low man on the totem pole means a person with very little status’ but actually, we know that this expression isn’t at all in keeping with the tradition of carving totem poles. In fact, the tower figures on the totem pole are usually the most important
Student 3: Why?
For a very practical reason. Not symbolic at all. Remember the size of a totem pole? Well, it’s often carved by more than one artist, usually a master carver and a number of apprentices, and the master carver is the one who carves the bottom ten feet of the pole, leaving the upper figures to the less expe¬rienced apprentices. The most elaborate carving and therefore, the most important figures are at the bottom of the pole where people are able to see them more clearly than they can see the figures at the top. In fact, many totem poles have a thunderbird at the top, which serves as a cap. As the lord of the sky, this choice is logical, but most of the time, it has very little significance in the story of the pole and it might be the the crudest carving.
Student 3: So did the Haida people worship the totem poles?
That’s another old myth. Totem poles were not worshiped and were not used to frighten away evil spirits as some early records supposed.
Now, no one knows exactly how long the Haida have been carving totem poles, and the reason for this is that a cedar pole that’s been exposed to the elements..uh, it will decay in fewer than one hundred years, so archeologists don’t have a physical record of totem poles over the centuries. Probably the best description that we have of the tradition dates back to the late 1700s when European sailing vessels began trading with the Haida, and we know from ships’ journals that totem poles were a well– established tradition at that time. Some of them were painted and others weren’t, so that option seems to have been left to the discretion of the owner and the carver.
Okay, ifs almost time for the bell to ring, but I want to mention that although our discussion has focused on the Haida, interestingly enough, many other aboriginal people have a history of carving totem poles as well. Just off the top of my head, I’d have to indude the Tlingit and Tsimshtan people of Alaska and the Safeh people of Western Washington and British Columbia. And … the Maori people of New Zealand … and the … the Ainu people from Northern Japan. But that isn’t an indusive list by any means.
LISTENING 7 “PROFESSOR’S OFFICE”
Listen to a conversation in a professor’s office.
Student: Thanks for seeing me.
Professor: No problem. What…
Student: I’m here. Oh excuse me.
Professor: Go ahead.
Student: I’m here because, well, I just don’t seem to be able to keep up, with the assignments, I mean.
Professor: I see. Is that just in my class or is this a general problem?
Student: Oh, no. I’m getting behind in my assignments in all my classes. There’s just so much. It’s overwhelming.
Student: But I came to you because I thought you … you could give me some advice.
Professor: Well, I’ll try. So how many classes are you taking?
Student: Four, which is about average, I think.
Professor: And what are they?
Professor: Which classes are you taking?
Student: Oh. Well, I have Western Civilization, World Literature, um, your class in Psychology of course, and Philosophy.
Professor: Unhuh. Well, that’s the problem. All of your courses are reading–intensive classes.
Student: If you mean that I have a lot of reading to do, that’s the truth.
Professor: Look, when you registered, did you talk with your advisor?
Student: Not really.
Professor: But you had to have your advisor’s signature in order to complete the registration process…
Student: Yeah, but I just had him sign it. I… I didn’t really make an appointment or anything. See. I thought the best thing to do was to get all of my required courses out of the way so I could spend the last two years concentrating on my major.
Professor: And that’s a good plan, but the problem is that you selected four courses that had heavy reading assignments and probably papers to write in addition to tests, right?
Student: Right But most courses have a lot of reading, don’t they?
Professor: Some have more than others, and that’s what I mean by a reading-intensive class. Listen, if you had taken a lab course, like . . – like Botany or Chemistry, well, then you would have had one course with a textbook and another course with a small lab manual. Now you’d have had to spend time in the lab to finish your experiments but you would have received credit for two courses and you wouldn’t have had any papers to write just tests.
Student: Oh I see, and with the literature. I have eight books to read, plus the textbook and there are .. how many? … four or five books in your class.
Professor: So when you register, you really need to think about the course requirements so you aren’t putting all of your reading-intensive courses together in the same semester.
Student: Like I did this time. So. maybe it’s not that I’m such a slow reader. Maybe I just have too much to read.
Professor: Could be. In any case, the schedule has to be at least a part of the problem.
Student: So what should I do now?
Professor: Okay. well, how are you doing in your classes?
Student: I’m getting Bs and Cs but I know I could get As if I had more time in the day. And I’m really worried about those Cs.
Professor: Well, here’s a possibility. Why don’t you drop one of your courses? The one that takes the most time.
Student: That would be my literature class.
Professor: You could take It next semester. It’s offered every term, and you would have some of the reading done already.
Student: But wouldn’t that mess up my graduation date?
Professor: I don’t know. You’d have to check that with your advisor to be sure.
Student: But maybe the professor would be upset, about my dropping the class. Then next semester, when I show up again …
Professor: You could talk with the professor and explain your plan. But if you decide to do this, you’ll need to do It nght away because there’s a cut–off date for dropping a course and I think it’s the end of this month.
Student: I wish I hadn’t gotten myself into this.
Professor: Well, the main thing is to learn from it.
Student: So next semester I could take some reading-intensive courses and some that are . . less reading-intensive.
Professor: And you should really see your academic advisor when you’re selecting courses next time to talk. I mean. Not just for a signature.