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First Nations Animal Meanings

Magpie has worked with the same artist collective in Vancouver for over 20 years. We carefully select beautiful hand carved pieces from this small studio to showcase in our stores. The animals represented in the carvings carry special meanings and play an important part in the culture and history of First Nations people. Each animal, spirit and supernatural being represents and symbolizes different stories, traits, personality and values. The following are the most common that we carry in our cuffs, rings, earrings and other pieces. 

The Eagle is a symbol of power, prestige and wisdom. It has a strong connection to peace, with its sacred down representing friendship and its feathers being used for ceremonies and rituals. The Cree consider each eagle feather as having special meaning and distinction. As ruler of the sky, the eagle has the ability to transform itself.

The Raven is the creator, transformer and trickster, a symbol of knowledge and prestige. Legend says the raven released the sun and moon from captivity, and discovered mankind in a clamshell. The raven also brought the salmon and the water to man, and taught people how to fish and hunt.

The Owl possesses the knowledge of a people’s ancestors, and is the bridge between the physical and spiritual world. It ensures a continuation of the great culture of the Northwest Coast, which has lasted for thousands of years.

The Thunderbird represents power, protection, and strength. He waters the earth by creating rainstorms, making it possible for vegetation to grow. It is said that the thunderbird is so enormous that not only is his wingspan as large as two canoes, he could easily carry a killer whale out of the water with his talons. Only the most powerful and successful chiefs and families use the thunderbird in their crest.

The Hummingbird is known as a symbol of peace, affection and good fortune. A living rainbow, the hummingbird captures the sunlight and turns it into a jewel on its wings, signifying live, beauty, and healing. The hummingbird is also known as a joyful messenger, carrying messages to the people of things to come. These can be a spirit message or a message of healing.

The Loon is a symbol of peace, tranquility and grace. It carries a strong association with the realm of dreams, and represents introspection and the reawakening of old hopes, wishes, and dreams. Despite being a largely solitary bird, the loon is also understood to be deeply loyal, and possesses a great strength of family.

The Bear is the protector of the animal kingdom. With its great power and human-like qualities, the bear is known as the Elder Kinsman and always treated as a high-ranking quest. The also symbolizes strength, learned humility, teaching and motherhood.

The Wolf is wise and powerful, known for its strong sense of both family and community, and symbolizes perseverance, intuition and success as well as strength and loyalty in relationships. In Kwaguilt culture, the wolf is the leader of the animal kingdom. It is admired for its tactful hunting skills, and is considered the land manifestation of the Orca, as both animals mate for life.

Like the wolf, the Orca, sometimes known as the Killer Whale, mates for life, making it a popular symbol for romance. Legend says that orcas can capture a canoe, take it underwater, and transform its occupants into fellow whales. Thus, a whale near the shore is a transformed human trying to communicate with his family.

The Salmon is a symbol of immortality and wealth, dependability and renewal. The salmon is the life source, and thus is always treated with high regard. The great abundance of salmon allowed the culture of the peoples of the Northwest Coast to flourish.

As the provider of healing energy and peace, the Sun is often carved on totems and marks, and sits atop the tallest totem pole. Said to have been released from a box by the raven, the Sun Chief inhabits the sky and can only be reached by climbing a chain of arrows.

The Moon is the protector and guardian of the people of Earth, and its spirit influences the way we feel. The moon is the exclusive crest of only a few of the highest-ranking chiefs amongst the Haida. An eclipse is said to be a codfish trying to sallow the moon.

The Dragonfly is a symbol of mystery and magic. Endlessly mobile and active, this colourful creature is associated with swiftness and often used to represent dynamism, motion and change. It is known as the symbol of ever-changing life.

The Frog is a symbol of prosperity, wealth and good luck. In Tsimshian culture, the frog is known as the communicator between Mother Earth and mankind. Historically, the Haida carved frogs on their house posts to keep them from falling over.