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.
Hummingbird is a popular figure in Northwest Coast artwork, especially in jewelry. Generally, Hummingbird has associations with joy, beauty, and good luck. A legend from the Kwakwaka'wakw says that Dzunuk'wa (guardian of the mountains and Wild Woman of the Woods) loved this little bird so much that she let him nest in her hair. In return, the Hummingbird looked like jewelry pinned in her hair. Of all the birds, Hummingbird is the most talented flyer as it can hover in one place, fly sideways, backwards, and forwards. It is agile and adaptable, and some say can teach us how to move forward. Hummingbird is usually depicted with a small round head and a long beak with a sharp point. Flowers are often included in a design with Hummingbird.