Decision time...

The meaning of designs may be different for each of us and it's what people prefer and what your perspectives are that count the most.

Having a piece of artwork that means something to you, or reminds you of someone, or that has a story or character that you can identify with is what artwork really is all about.

For some people the strong eagle or thunderbird designs have significance for you and it resonates something from within.

For others, the symbol of peace and tranquility is something you cherise and strive for within your daily lives. So the hummingbird maybe what you are looking for.

It really is all about choice, what matters, what memories, or what significance a specific design brings to a certain person.

These design meanings are here to help you make a choice. And for some it is good reference material for the future.

Keep in mind, that designs may differ from place to place or cultural groups.

The Northwest Coast has so many diverse cultural groups.

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Design Meanings


Often portrayed with a curved, predatory or sly beak and humour-filled or heavy-lidded eyes, this is the famous Trickster of the Northwest Coast. Continually playing games to enliven his immortal existence, and at the mercy of his appetites and passions, Raven inspires laughter and awe. Raven is mankind’s mirror of vanity, despair, wit and dignity.


While Raven traditionally is associated with motion of the air, as in flight, Eagle is representative of supernatural powers involving fire, such as the sun and lightning. The Eagle is proud, dignified - the spirit of which kings are made.


Thunderbird holds the key to enlightenment. From his perch at the top of the cosmos, Thunderbird, saviour and bringer of divine gifts, holds his thunderbolt. He is strong, dynamic, statuesque.


Designating the essence of light, Sun is depicted by a face surrounded by rays and many times has the beak of a hawk or eagle.


Having significance in cycles for both men and women. Moon involves regeneration. A flat, circular disk or crescent shape is behind the face of Moon. Both Sun and Moon appear frequently in legend and dance.


Revered as a good hunter, Wolf was associated with the special power a man had to acquire to become a good hunter. His sharp, pointed teeth are shown along with a flat snout, and tapered-back, pointed ears.


Is a symbol of rebirth, Frog has the added distinction of vaguely resembling a human fetus, earning her fertility laurels. Her dual residences of water and earth explain her resilient nature and abundant life-giving charms. Frog’s revolving eye gives him a unique “worldview”.


Strong, courageous, fearless, protective, tempestuous, invincible, Bear may symbolize the fearlessness of the warrior and possess supernatural strength. Her immortality is reflected in her annual reappearance after hibernation. A flat snubby nose, rounded small ears and sharp claws depict Bear.


Industrious, hardworking, intelligent Beaver is man’s partner in the harvest of the rain forest. Totem poles masks, bowls, clothing, canoes, chief chests were all created from the cedar by Northwest Coast peoples for centuries for beauty and survival. Beaver with rounded face, short arms, protruding teeth and flat tail, is without a doubt Northwest Coast man’s greatest accomplice.


The regular spawning of salmon in the many rivers of the Northwest Coast ensured Salmon’s position of importance in the lives of natives. A major food source, Salmon also was a visual yearly reassurance of renewal of the life cycle, and hence a major spiritual life force. In the First Salmon ceremony, salmon bones were returned to the river where they would regenerate and again make themselves available for consumption. Salmon is often depicted simply with a serene expression.


Another nurturing character, the whale in its cavernous shape resembles the womb. Killer Whale, once the home of Raven and Mink, kept them alive be swallowing fish whole for them to eat. Revered for its migratory patterns and sheer size, Whale is characterized by his slapping tail and blowhole.


A dramatic, transforming, awesome mythological character, Sisiutl has supernatural powers and is frequently represented. It has the ability to cause death and regeneration. A double-headed snake with a stylized human head at center surmounted by horns identifies this character.


Love, beauty and intelligence and also spirit messenger.


Represents ever-changing life and also a symbol of goodluck.


Represents balance, harmony and grace.