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Indigenous artwork on the Pacific Northwest Coast often incorporates figures and animals that are related to crest symbols. Crests have been passed down through families and have varying meanings depending on the context and association with a nation, clan, or family. The figures depicted in contemporary Northwest Coast Indigenous artwork also have varying meanings but there are some common characteristics from a range of sources, including oral histories and artist descriptions.
Dogfish is a small variety of shark found on the Northwest Coast and is sometimes said to represent assertiveness and persistence. Dogfish, and Dogfish Woman, is an important crest and figure among the Haida, and some Nuu-chah-nulth communities. Dogfish is a favourite subject of renowned Haida artists, Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, who set the precedent for this figure as a common motif in contemporary Northwest Coast art. Dogfish is often portrayed face-on, distinguished by a high, domed head, distinctive gills, triangular teeth, and split pupils.