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Eagle Fugitive

What do the Symbols in Haida Art Mean?

Family Crests are depicted in Haida Art

The Eagles and Ravens have traditional and hereditary rights to use and display certain crests. A sample of the most commonly used crests are as follows:

        EAGLES:  Eagle, Beaver, Sea Wolf, Hawk, Killer whale, Raven, Frog and Dragonfly.

        RAVENS:  Raven, Killer whale, Grizzly bear, Black bear, Hawk, Moon, Sea Wolf, Shark and Wolf.


BEAVER Industrious. Artistic. Determined. Resourceful. Creative. In Haida legend it is the Beaver who is responsible for providing the Salmon that the Raven had stolen to give back to the people.
BEAR Strength. Introspection. Learned humility. Motherhood & teaching. Bear is known as the protector of the animal kingdom. In Haida culture is referred to as "Elder Kinsman" and was treated like a high ranking guest ...
BUTTERFLY As a supernatural being, the butterfly is a spokesman for the Raven. The butterfly symbolizes that which is beautiful and positive. Associated with femininity, marriage, birth and knowledge; a bridge to the spirit world.
COPPER (SHIELD) A symbol of wealth, status, and prestige on the Northwest Coast, coppers are engraved with the crests and history of a family. As coppers are transferred in ownership between high ranking families during ceremony, they increase in value and develop a rich history.
DOGFISH Persistence & strength. Innate leadership. The Dogfish Woman is the most prominent Shark in Haida legends. Itís considered a family crest of Haida royalty. All other Sharks are referred to as "Dogfish Motherí. In addition to the Shark-like features, the Dogfish Woman wears a labret in her lower lip which is traditionally worn by artistocratic Haida women. The Dogfish is one of the most powerful crests that is associated with feminine qualities. As well, it enters the realm of supernatural beings.
DRAGONFLY Ever-changing Life.
EAGLE Honour. Strength. Leadership. Wisdom. Eagle is seen as a symbol of both power and prestige as well as a harbinger of peace and friendship. Eagle is one of the two main crests of the Haida. Symbolizes courage and bringing to light. Eagle also has a strong connection to harmony.
EAGLE FEATHER Honouring. Respect. Strength. Eagle down, considered sacred, was used in ceremonies to welcome someone in friendship. "Down" was sprinkled on the ground before an important visitor came into the tribe. Eagle feathers are used for smudging and praying. The feathers were also given as a symbolic offering to bestow honour for acts of courage and wisdom.
FROG Spring & New Life, Stability. Frog is a symbol of prosperity, considered friendly as it is said he warns humans of imminent danger. Communicator with beings from both worlds, and serves as a mediator. In Haida culture, the Frog is often shown on House posts because it is believed that this helps keep the house from falling over.
HALIBUT Life protector, Strength and Stability.
HAWK A messenger, often from the spirit world and the ancestors. Strength. Farsighted.
HERON Patience. Graceful and Easygoing.
HUMMINGBIRD Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger. The Hummingbird represents friendship and playfulness. The Hummingbird is also a symbol of good luck and good fortune. It was considered a positive sign to spot a Hummingbird just prior to some major event such as hunting or travelling to another village. The ability of the Hummingbird to hover and move back and forth at great speeds is seen as skills that guide the people. For example, if the people fall behind, the Hummingbird can easily back up to keep pace. Legend says that the Hummingbird puts the twinkle in the stars, and that catching a Hummingbird guarantees your choice of a mate. The Hummingbird is a well respected symbol.
KILLER WHALE Beauty and power. Traveller & guardian. Symbol of Good.  The Haida believe that killerwhales are human counterparts who have their own complex societies beneath the sea. The Killer whale is a popular symbol for romance as they mate for life.
KINGFISHER Luck, Patience, Speed and Agility.
LOON Peace. Tranquility. Generosity.
MOON Protector. Guardian. The Moon was the exclusive crest of only a few of the highest-ranking chiefs among the Haida; rights to this crest are still inherited. The Raven is said to have released the Moon into the sky. The stars are pieces of the Moon that flung off when Raven threw it into the sky.
MOUNTAIN GOAT Nobility. Rank. Justice. Steadfastness.
OTTER Trusting, Inquisitive and Bright - Loyal Friendship. Otter images often serve as symbols of laughter and light-heartedness. When it comes to important things, like protecting her family, she focuses all her energy on that. But when she is done, she takes time to enjoy her children and discover the grace and beauty of the world around her.
RAVEN Raven is known as Transformer, Trickster, Hero, Creator and is the other of the two main crests of the Haida. Legends credit Raven with, among other things, releasing the Sun and Moon, bringing water and fish and, according to the Haida, discovering mankind in a clamshell.
SALMON Dependability & Renewal. A Provider.
SEA LION Symbol of tremendous wealth.
SEAL Bright, Inquisitive, Organized
SUN According to Haida traditions, Raven tossed the Sun into the sky, where it remains today. It represents life abundance and its warmth radiates healing and peace.
THUNDERBIRD Power. Strength. Leadership. The Thunderbird lives high in the mountains. According to some traditions, Thunderbird causes thunder when he flies or ruffles his feathers. When he blinks his eyes, he causes lightning.
WATCHMEN The Haida Watchmen are supernatural beings that give warning when danger lurks. The number of Skils - the hat rings - show the wealth and prestige of the family.
WOLF Represents intelligence and leadership. Wolf is the land manifestation of the Killer Whale as they both mate for life, protect their young and do not separate from their families, thus represent loyalty and family values.
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