On the Octopus from “Understanding Northwest Coast Art” by Cheryl Shearar:
Octopus is common in Shamanic art, undoubtedly because of its amazing transformation abilities. It is also a crest in some regions―among the Tsimshian Eagle clan, for example. Among the Haida, Octopus features in legend and myth, but is not a crest.
Myths speak of a giant devilfish monster who occasionally devours canoes and sometimes entire villages. Octopus is a powerful sea spirit helper, often shown in complex compositions involving other creatures. In some tribal cultures, eight is considered a magic and auspicious number, which adds to the appeal and power of Octopus. Octopus is a servant of Kumugwe, chief of the undersea world, and is also a symbol of great wealth in Kwakwaka’wakw mythology.
Killer Whales are widely recognized as clan ancestors and are found in shamanic story, and crest art. Killer Whales are also seen to be reincarnations of past chiefs and when a chief dies a Killer Whale comes to shore to take the chief’s spirit. Killer Whales are an important symbol of family and longevity.