Northwest Coast Animal Symbolism

Northwest Coast Animal Symbolism

Northwest Coast Native Art often examines the relationship and connection between humans and animals. In many of our Adawaks (Oral History) animals are given human characteristics. Our cultural mythology is represented by these  crest figures and individual nations align themselves with specific crest figures. During traditional potlatches these crests and ancestral beings are honoured through the retelling of stories, and the performance of songs, dances. They are further represented on traditional button blankets and regalia, as well as, on other potlatch items: coppers, bowls, spoons, baskets, hats and other various items.

Here are some of the crests used by many Northwest Coast First Nations and what they symbolize.

BEAVER: Creative, Artistic, Flexible, Industrious and Determine

BEAR: Strength, Learned Humility, Motherhood, Teaching

BUTTERFLY: Metamorphosis, Balance, and Grace – A messenger to our people

EAGLE: Great Strength, Leadership and Prestige

FROG: Spring & New Life – Cleansing, Peace, Rebirth, Communicator, Stability

HERON: Abundance, Patience, Graceful and Easy Going

HUMMINGBIRD: Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger

KILLER WHALE: Kindness, Intelligence, Compassion, Traveler & Guardian of the Sea.

MOON: Protector and Guardian of the Earth by Night

OTTER: Trusting, Inquisitive and Bright – Loyal Friendship

OWL: Wisdom, Foresight, Keeper of Sacred Knowledge- Keeper of the Night

RAVEN: Life, Creativity, Humour, Trickster, Creation & Knowledge – Bringer of the Light

SALMON: Instinct, Determination, Persistence, Abundance, Dependability and Renewal – A Provider

SEAL: Bright, Inquisitive, Organized- Bringer of Wealth and Prosperity

SISUITL: Magical Power, Guardian, Protector – Bringer of Great Wealth

SUN: Healing Energy, Guardian of the Earth by Day

THUNDERBIRD: Powerful, Supernatural & Mystical – A Leader Carrying out Law & Protocol

WOLF: Intelligence, Perseverance, Intuition, Success & Leadership – Strong Sense of Family