Seven Sea Creatures Commonly Seen In Totemic Art

Posted on: 18 March 2015

The totemic art of Western Canada and Southeastern Alaska is rich in imagery from the sea. Dolphins, orcas, blue whales, and salmon all play important roles in carvings, paintings, and totem poles. The following are seven creatures of the sea commonly seen in the totemic art of the Haida and Tlingit tribes of British Columbia and the islands of Southeast Alaska.


Salmon symbolizes strength, survival, inspiration, and renewal. A piece of artwork featuring a salmon or several salmon is an excellent choice to give to a loved one who is navigating a challenging passage in life. It is also appropriate as a gift to those who are about to become parents for the first time. It can also be given simply because the recipient loves salmon.


Orcas symbolize extreme strength and wisdom and are often found in totemic art designed as gifts to tribal leaders. It is also often given to those who have proven their skill in the seas by bringing home abundant catches.

Sea Otter

Sea otters are symbolic of feminine power and also depict joy, sharing, and helpfulness. They are often seen on totemic art created for young teen girls who are about to embark on their journey toward womanhood. They make excellent gifts to any girl of this age.


Seals symbolize creativity and passion and make excellent gifts for artists and writers. They are also sometimes used to depict intelligence and curiosity, particularly if these traits have been proven to be instrumental in solving problems for the family or tribe.


Sharks are the ultimate symbol of prowess as a hunter and make an appropriate gift for those who have consistently proven themselves in this capacity. They are also sometimes used to indicate remorselessness and adaptability, particularly when related to matters of survival.

Blue Whale

The big blue whales of the northern seas symbolize ancient wisdom and are frequently given to elders who act in some capacity in tribal government. The may also be used to symbolize extreme endurance and are sometimes given to those who travel as a talisman to keep them safe on their journeys.


Halibut symbolizes protection and stability, and artwork depicting it is frequently given to those who are good providers for their families. This type of native art is sometimes given as a gift to young men who have recently married and are on the verge of beginning families of their own.


Shopping for Your Rural Masterpiece

I grew up on a small cattle ranch in a rural community. However, when I got married a few years ago, I moved to the suburbs to be near my husband’s job. Immediately after the move, I started to miss seeing the beautiful countryside every day. Instead of seeing cows, pecan trees, and a dirt road, I only saw my neighbors’ houses when looking out the windows of my new home. After a while, I decided to bring the countryside into my home by purchasing scenic wall art. I shopped for paintings of hayfields, dirt roads, and farmhouses at art galleries. On this blog, you will discover how to shop for rural wall art at an art gallery.

Latest Posts