Killer Whale is a traveler and guardian. Symbolizing both power and beauty, Killer Whales are significant of love and kinship, as they mate for life, travel with their pods and are fierce protectors of their young.
The Haida believe that Killer Whales are equivalent to humans, and that their undersea world societies are deeply complex. Killer Whale belongs to both the Eagle and Raven moieties of the Haida. Killer Whale is depicted differently, depending on affiliation to a particular clan. Killer Whales associated with Eagle Clan have a white stripe across the base of their dorsal fin, whereas those correlated with Raven Clan are black and do not have the stripe. If a Killer Whale has a hole in his fin, it is because he is associated with the supernatural realm. In design, the hole is marked as a round circle.
Killer Whales are considered Ancestors of many tribes on Vancouver Island, and as such, are thought to live in deep undersea villages, where they can take off their skin to emulate human beings.
Killer Whale remains one of the most commonly depicted motifs in Northwest Coast Art, perhaps second to Raven – an indication of prominence and importance.
Cheryl Shearar Understanding Northwest Coast Art (2000)
Conversations with Ehattesaht Artist Cecil Billy