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.
Beaver appears in Northwest Coast art and is a crest figure in many regions. In oral traditions, Beaver is said to keep to itself and cares little for the activities of humans. In one such tradition, the first ancestral Beaver was a woman who spent her time waiting for her husband swimming, eventually turning into a Beaver. In another tradition, Beaver is one of Raven’s uncles, with Raven borrowing many treasures from him. Wise and reserved, some say it is best to listen when Beaver speaks. Beaver can be recognized by a Bear-like head, rounded snout, short ears, and prominent incisor teeth. Beaver is often shown holding a piece of wood with a scaled tail flipped up in front of the body.