On the Northwest Coast, the Killer Whale also referred to as blackfish, is an important crest figure among local First Nations Groups and is one of the most commonly depicted forms. The very first Killer Whales came into being when carved in wood by a human, Raven, or a Master Carpenter and then magically infused with a life force. Killer Whales are known to capsize canoes and carry the occupants into the depths. In many of these stories, the kidnapped human is given great wealth. Killer Whales are also known to guide people to safety when caught in stormy weather.
Raven is one of the most important figures in the oral traditions of the Northwest Coast. As a cultural hero, a transformer, and a trickster, his adventures at the beginning of time brought the world as we know it now into existence. It was Raven who placed the sun, moon and stars in the sky after stealing them from a supernatural chief. Raven also discovered the first humans and released them into the world.
From Martine J Reid’s Bill Reid Collected, p. 12
“With no one to teach him, Reid started by studying Haida objects depicted in early ethnographic publications and those displayed in museum collections. During seventeen years of intense contemplation od strong original Haida models, Reid respectfully submitted to the conventions of Haida art, “shamelessly copying,” to use his own words, the ancient stylized and semi-realistic designs by his ancestors, whose original works he credited. Taught by those silent masters, he began to unlock “the secrets of the old designs,” and to understand the artistic logic behind them.
While attending his grandfather’s funeral in Skidefate in 1954, Reid held and closely examined a pair of bracelets made by Charles Edenshaw that were “really deeply carved,” and he would later say that after that transformative encounter, “the world was not really the same.” The bracelets left an indelible impression that compelled him to refine his standards for the making of Haida art.”