Meanings of Northwest Coast Native Crest Designs

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Meanings of Northwest Coast Native Crest Designs

Traditionally, Northwest Coast Native crests represents clans. Chiefs and clan members carve and paint their crest symbols on houses, canoes, clothing, boxes and utensils. A Chief may posses many different crests. A Crest is usually a supernatural being or the supernatural aspect of an animal. Crests, along with songs, stories, dances and other property were acquired by humans during supernatural experiences, and were then handed down to their descendants. During early times, humans, animals and other beings transformed into one another. Today, crests also have more contemporary meanings.

The Royal Family Crest above is designed by Wade Baker.


View our native art collection to learn more about Aboriginal symbols and designs created by our Native artists, or read on and click the photos below for product information and pricing. 



The Raven

 Pendleton blanket Raven and the box of knowledge


The Raven is a trickster, a comical figure, and a shape shifter. There are many stories told of him that teach lessons and values, often about how not to do things. He is also the central figure in many stories about how the world became the way it is now. 


The Raven brought light to the world. He placed the sun, moon and stars in the sky. In Haida stories, the Raven discovered and freed the first men who had been trapped in a clam shell. He then freed the first women from a chiton shell, and put the men and women together. The Raven stole salmon from the Beaver People and deposited them in the streams and rivers up and down the coast to provide food for the People. The Raven has two sides. The one is creative and loving. The other is destructive, lazy and selfish.


See our selection of Pendleton Blankets like the 'Raven and the Box of Knowledge' blanket above


The Thunderbird


 Thunderbird and Seal Totem Pole


The Thunderbird is a supernatural being that looks like a giant Eagle, except that he is depicted with curly ears or horns. He creates Thunder by flapping his wings and Lightning flashes from his eyes. 


He catches Orca Whales with his powerful talons and carries them to his home on the mountaintops to feast on. The Thunderbird is associated with the western direction of the medicine wheel, with water, which is the source of all life, and with the Cedar Tree. He is a Warriors’ helper spirit.


View all model totem poles available at Cheryl's Trading Post, like the Thunderbird and Seal Totem Pole by Harvey Williams pictured above.



The Bear


Coast Salish bear panel


The Bear symbolizes healing and doctoring. Indian medicine began when people followed bears to observe what they ate when sick and what they rubbed against when wounded. Bears have great power and strength. They are protectors. Think of a Mother Bear and her Cubs. Bear clan members are believed to be descended from a time when Humans and Bears transformed back and forth.


The Native crest above represents the Bear, deeply carved in red cedar by Aboriginal artist Curtis Joe. View all Northwest Coast Native Carvings in stock.



The Wolf


Jay Simeon Haida Silver Repousse Wolf Bracelet


Wolves are strong family members. They mate for life, hunt together in packs, and care for their young and each other. They are the animals that are most like humans. They have strong supernatural power which helps them be great hunters. Wolves and Killer Whales are believed to be the same being - Wolf on land, Killer Whale in the water.  


Wolves and Ravens hunt together. Ravens lead them to the prey, then feast on the leftovers.


Browse all of our Northwest Coast Native Jewelry like the repouse Wolf bracelet by Jay Simeon (Haida) that is pictured above.

The Orca Whale


Orca moon mask


Orcas are sometimes called Sea Wolves. They are like wolves in that they live and hunt in a close family unit or pack. Wolves and Orcas are believed to be able to transform back and forth. They are also closely related to humans and are thought of as protectors and healers of humans. It’s believed Humans that have transformed into Orcas sometimes swim close to shore when they miss their old life. It’s good luck to be splashed by an Orca.


Check our our full selection of hand carved masks like this Killer Whale mask by Patrick Amos.



The Frog

Haida Argillite Frog Tobacco Pipe by Lionel Samuels


The Frog can live in and travel between two worlds, on the earth and under the water, and also in the natural world and the supernatural. He is a helper to Shamans. He is a great communicator and his songs have spiritual and magical qualities. The Frog is associated with copper and wealth, and also with water, springtime and renewal. The Frog announces the end of the winter dance season. The final Snowflakes turn to Frogs when they touch the ground.  


View more traditional Haida argillite carvings like the frog pipe above.

The Sisiutl

Medicine Chest with Sisuitl and Salmon designs

The Sisiutl is a giant two-headed sea serpent. He can transform into a self-propelling two-headed copper canoe. He guards the entrance of houses of supernaturals. Humans carve or paint images of Sisiutles over doorways for protection. He is a powerful warrior helper spirit. Warriors wear a headband with a Sisiutl painted on it for strength and protection.  


The Sisiutl is one of the highest ranking crests. He is depicted with three heads, one in the centre and one at each end, all have curling horns and sharp teeth.  


The Sisiutl medicine chest above was hand carved by artist Jimmy Joseph. See all Carved Boxes and Chests for sale at Cheryl's Trading Post. 


Questions about the Native crests showcased here? Learn about the art we have in stock, as well as our custom orders. Contact Cheryl's Trading Post at [email protected] or call us: 1-778-886-5090.


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