The totem is likely a leftover relic from an unspecified Native American community that once owned the land prior to its colonization by settlers. The totem has since then been mystified by students and faculty who have little to no information on its origins. The only person with any information on it is Michelle Grant, who states that no one actually knows where the Tobanga came from. Grant speculates that it was stolen from somewhere along the Pacific coast south of Arcadia Bay. It is perhaps Arcadia Bay's oldest original totem and, despite controversy, no tribe has claimed ownership of the Tobanga.
Episode One - "Chrysalis"
During her attempt to enter the dormitory, Max Caulfield spots the totem across the way. She remembers that her friend, Warren Graham, told her that the totem was named "Tobanga", but supposedly no one really knew why.
Episode Three - "Chaos Theory"
After sneaking out of the Prescott Dormitory, Max may look at the Tobanga and think, "The Tobanga does look pretty scary at night... Please don't destroy me."
Documents from Principal Wells' computer reveal that at some point, for unknown reasons, Nathan Prescott attempted to steal the Tobanga from school grounds. He did not succeed, and the Tobanga remains in its customary spot across the dormitory grounds. He had also been threatening the school janitor, Samuel, which could be connected to his attempted theft.
Episode Four - "Dark Room"
Later on, when birds begin dying across Arcadia Bay, dozens of dead birds are buried near the Tobanga by Blackwell janitor, Samuel.
Episode Five - "Polarized"
The Tobanga is featured in Max's Nightmare, appearing in the maze sequence. Dark Samuel also mentions it saying, "Too bad you didn't become friends with the Tobanga."
When Max looks at the Tobanga, she says, "I don't think the Tobanga will ever give up any secrets to us."
There has been some speculation about the symbolism and significance behind the Tobanga. One theory is that the Tobanga might be some kind of magical Native American relic which is related to Max's time travel powers.
The Tobanga Totem represents four animals; an otter, a squirrel (assumed), a whale (assumed), and a bird.
People have been speculating that these four animals represent the spirit animals of four characters in the game: It was once said that it is possible that Nathan's spirit animal is a whale, given that in Nathan's dormitory room, there is a radio that plays whale sounds. It was also assumed that Principal Wells' spirit animal is an otter, as they are the mascot of the school. Samuel's spirit animal is a squirrel, and the bird could be associated with the Blue Jay that is encountered a few times in Chloe Price's house (However, Chloe's spirit animal is implied to be a blue butterfly).
- In Central Africa, one of the languages spoken in the Republic of Chad is called "Tobanga".
- The name Tobanga is likely a play on words referencing the Native American word "Topanga" roughly meaning "where the mountain meets the sea". It's also the name of a city in California. Speculatively it may be mixed with Tobago, an island off the mainland of Trinidad which lies on the edge of a hurricane belt.
- Chloe Price finds information about the Tobanga really interesting and loves saying the name.
- A totem is actually considered to be a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.
- Max encounters Miss Grant in front of the Main Building after she prevented Nathan Prescott from shooting Chloe Price in "Chrysalis".
- Max encounters Miss Grant when looking after Nathan Prescott sitting next to Samuel on a bench in front of the Prescott Dormitory in "Dark Room.
- This is what Chloe finds out about the Tobanga on the Internet at the beginning of "Dark Room", while investigating on Rachel's disappearance and the connection to Nathan Prescott and Kate's suicide attempt. Max has to wait some time before leaving her room to get that information.