The animals and supernatural beings that are featured in Northwest Coast Indigenous artwork symbolize or represent different values, concepts, and personality traits. Myths and legends that are passed down through generations of storytelling feature these beings, and highlight the close relationship that Indigenous people have with the natural and spirit worlds.
The Eagle symbolizes strength, focus, wisdom, and prestige. He is known as “The master of skies” and is a spiritual guide. Soaring great heights, he travels between the physical and spiritual world, and can deliver messages to the creator. Eagle has a strong connection to peace.
The Raven symbolizes creation, knowledge, and the complexity of nature. He is mischievous and curious, and is known as a transformer and a trickster. In Haida legends, the Raven released the sun and moon, and discovered mankind in a clamshell. Raven can represent humour and lightness of being.
The Bear symbolizes strength, courage, family, and teaching. Known as the protector of the animal kingdom. The Bear is thoughtful and independent, and possesses human-like qualities. In Haida culture the Bear is referred to as “Elder Kinsman”.
The Wolf represents loyalty, family, honour, and intelligence. Known for having the strongest supernatural powers of all land animals, and for being a courageous hunter. The Wolf is very social and communicative, and embodies the power of teamwork and community. Wolf is considered the Pathfinder, and is allied with the Moon.
The Moon is known as the protector and guardian of the earth. The Moon spirit watches over us, governing our emotions. Moon is associated with transformation because it controls the tides and illuminates the dark. It is seen as a symbol of spiritual guidance.
The Sun symbolizes warmth, comfort, light and life. It provides healing energy and brings peace to the world. The Sun was freed from a box and given back to earth by the Raven. Legend says that one could reach the sun by climbing a chain of arrows, and descend by sliding down the rays.
The Killer Whale is known as the guardian of the sea. It symbolizes family, communication, and longevity. Known for protecting travelers and guiding them home. Because Orcas live and travel together in pods, they have a strong connection to community and harmony.
The Frog symbolizes wealth, abundance, and good luck. Known as the great communicator between mother earth and mankind. Frog songs are believed to contain divine power & magic. When a frog is touching his tongue with another creature it represents the exchange of knowledge and power. Because he lives in water and on land, the Frog is revered for his adaptability and power to traverse the natural and supernatural world.
The Beaver symbolizes creativity, hard work, and determination. Known as the carpenter of the animal Kingdom. He teaches persistence, resourcefulness, cooperation, and harmony. The Beaver is a serious, hard worker and will not quit until he is done.
The Salmon symbolizes abundance, fertility, prosperity, and renewal. Salmon are the life source, providing food for all animals and humans. Salmon are often depicted in circular pairs, symbolizing the cycle of life.
The Hummingbird is a symbol of peace, wonder, love, and healing. They teach you to appreciate the miracle of living and help you to focus on positivity in your life. The Hummingbird is the joyful messenger, carrying messages between the human world and the spirit world. When a Hummingbird appears, comfort and healing will soon follow. The Hummingbird symbolizes the fragility of nature and all living things.
The Dragonfly is a being of wind and water. Their ability to fly swiftly and with agility represents a dynamic power that can bring about transformation. Always in motion, Dragonfly is very adaptable, symbolizing ever changing life. In Haida mythology Dragonfly transported souls to the spirit world.
The Butterfly symbolizes metamorphosis, and represents the grace and hope that can be found in life’s transitions. Butterfly is a symbol of balance, beauty, and transformation. In Haida legends she is Raven’s travelling companion and guide.
The Owl is viewed with deep respect because it possesses the sacred knowledge of our ancestors. Owl represents wisdom and intuition, and is associated with the moon and nighttime. Owl is a bridge between the physical and spiritual world.
The Otter is often called “River Wolf”. It represents resourcefulness, playfulness, and lightheartedness. Otter is inquisitive, trusting, and loyal. Otter understands the importance of balance between work and play, and inspires us to take time to appreciate the grace and beauty of the world around us.
The Heron, standing on long thin legs, is a symbol of self-determination, self-reliance, and the ability to stand on one’s own. Heron represents grace, elegance and patience. Heron is known to be a lucky charm to fishermen