Tsimshian Crest Characteristics by Bill Helin
The Raven was the first symbol and crest of the Northwest Coastal
Indians. As the Creator’s assistant, he created all things
that exist - with mysterious trickery. This mystical bird is a symbol
of prestige - a cultural hero. The Raven is often given to tell someone
you respect them, that they are your hero. The Raven is a great retirement
gift for someone you respect, an excellent gift for the boss, a great
way to tell your hero you care.
The Eagle is a symbol of power and prestige while his 'down' symbolizes
peace and friendship. He is highly respected by all who share his
environment. The Eagle is given by females to males, for it can represent
the peace and security she feels having him in her life. The friendship
that they share, the protection she feels, and how proud she feels
that he is her man. Men will give an Eagle to her for she is, to
quote a popular song, "the wind beneath his wings".
The Killer whale is always regarded with respect and
awe by the Northwest Coastal Indians. He is the subject of much fantasy
and superstition. Legends encourage living in harmony with these
mammals. The Killer whale is given to show respect and awe. It's
the symbol you'd give to someone who brings harmony to your life.
The Tsimshian believe the Hummingbird to be a joyful messenger and
mysterious traveler. If he appears during a time of great sorrow
and pain, healing will soon follow. He also symbolizes the fragility
of nature and all living things. This symbol is often used in gifts
between lovers, for wedding rings, on a bracelet or any piece of
jewellery - it says you are wished joy, healing and love. The Hummingbird
also tells the receiver they bring joy to the giver's life.
Often referred to as "Salmon People". The
Salmon's life cycle was highly respected, and if observed, prosperity
followed. A vital Indian food resource, many legends tell of its
beginning, usually as a product of the work of the Raven. The Salmon
is highly respected and given to those you respect. It wishes prosperity
to the receiver.
Prowler of the night, traveling in packs to keep strong, supporting
each other. Because of his hunting skills, many natives tried to
assume the spirit of the wolf to enhance their own hunting prowess
and senses for the wilderness. Some legends say that the wolf is
the land equivalent of the Killer whale because of the parallels
between the species' social structures - traveling in packs and stalking
prey. The Wolf is given to show respect, it symbolizes supporting
one another as within a relationship or a family. We think this makes
a great gift for a mother or father who has held the family together.
Master of the forest—always disappearing in the winter, changing
into his spirit body to allow his earthly body to revitalize, so
mythology says. There are many legends and superstitions represented
by the bear. Because of its power and humanlike qualities, the bear
was referred to as 'Elder Kinsman'. When killed, it was taken to
the Chiefs house, sprinkled with eagle down (a symbol of welcome
and friendship), and generally treated as a high ranking guest. The
Bear Is a symbol of friendship and is often used on jewellery to
express this. As a Bear revitalizes his body and spirit, a good friend
does this for us.
Otter has a sense of humor and enjoys fun and games. He is carefree
and brightens gloomy days. In Tsimshian mythology this happy fellow
never takes anything seriously. Some of his pranks backfired on him
- not everyone can take a joke. Legends attribute to him the power
to transform people into animals. The Otter is a symbol you'd give
to someone who brightens your days, for the life of the party, or
for that happy person who spreads joy wherever they go.
Tsimshian legend of the origin of Beaver—a brown haired woman
dammed a small dream to swim in a. As she swam, her leather apron
slapped the water. The stream grew to form a lake and the woman,
refusing to return to her unkind husband, developed fur all over
her body. Her apron turned into a tail and her large front teeth
grew even larger from continuous chewing of trees and branches. The
beaver is also known as the symbol of the carver.
The Frog is the voice of the people, especially in our family. He
strives for family unity, is one who teaches by example and is sometimes
a symbol of innocence. The frog is more 'us' and 'we' and less 'I'.
Porpoise - Joyful, playful traveler, sensitive spirit.
Dreamer, calm spirit. The design is usually recognized by a face
with no teeth.
Solitary, musical, kind and gentle. The whale’s tail symbolizes
strength and progression.
The Hiatsk or 'Copper' was the Northwest Coastal Indian
symbol of wealth, power and prestige. To be recipient of even the
smallest piece of the 'Copper' was a great honor. The copper is an
excellent gift as it shows you respect and honor for that person.
The Sun symbol was one of the first crests used by the Northwest
Coastal Indians. It symbolizes life - everything revolves around
the sun. It shared its high rank with the Raven. All other crests
followed. This symbol makes an excellent gift to the one who is the
center of your life, who provides the warmth in which all other relationships
have their birth and their meaning.
"I heard the Owl call my name" - stories speak of the owl
coming to prophesy the transition from life to the spirit World.
His visions are feared because of apprehension about the after life.
What really happens after we die? The Tsimshian shaman said that
the owl could cause death just by flying over a person. The shamans
were experts at evoking fear. Today the Owl has other meanings, as
one who can see in the dark or one who brings a new spiritual wise
ness to you - the 'wise owl'.