The Haida spirit world is inhabited by many creatures from the sea, known as Tsagan xaaydagaay, or the underwater people.

In their earthly form, the underwater people appear as halibut, sharks, sea lions and most other mammals and fish from the sea.

In the spirit world, however, they take the form of humans.

Sgaana xaaydagaay, the killer whale people, are among the most powerful of the people from the sea.

Many stories tell of Haida ancestors putting on skins of killer whales to enter the realm of the spirit world, where killer whale people and humans visit, communicate and feast together.
The Haida spirit world is inhabited by many creatures from the sea, known as Tsagan xaaydagaay, or the underwater people.

In their earthly form, the underwater people appear as halibut, sharks, sea lions and most other mammals and fish from the sea.

In the spirit world, however, they take the form of humans.

Sgaana xaaydagaay, the killer whale people, are among the most powerful of the people from the sea.

Many stories tell of Haida ancestors putting on skins of killer whales to enter the realm of the spirit world, where killer whale people and humans visit, communicate and feast together.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Killer Whale

Killer whales. Sculpture in yellow cedar.

Sculpture: Robert Davidson
Collection of Old Massett Village Council

© Collection of Old Massett Village Council


Killer Whale

Killer whale (rhun), pencil drawing.

Tom Price
Royal British Columbia Museum

CPN 16561
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Sculpture

Killer whale/ Human transformation; sculpture in wood.

Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization

VII-B-1654 (S94-6774)
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


Sculpture

Human/ killer whale transformation; argillite.

Sculpture by Christian White
Photo: Haida Gwaii Museum at Qay llnagaay

Nb1.567
© Haida Gwaii Museum at Qay llnagaay


A model pole carved in yellow cedar by Robert Davidson shows killer whale in two states.

At the bottom is the killer whale in animal form as in our world. Above it, it is in human form as in the spirit world. They share the same tail. Above them is Thunderbird.
A model pole carved in yellow cedar by Robert Davidson shows killer whale in two states.

At the bottom is the killer whale in animal form as in our world. Above it, it is in human form as in the spirit world. They share the same tail. Above them is Thunderbird.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Whale pole

Variations on the Killer whale Myth; one of a series of three model poles carved in yellow cedar.

Robert Davidson
Collection of Old Massett Village Council

© Collection of Old Massett Village Council


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Summarize the Haida story of the killer whale myth in words and in pictures
  • Identify elements of Haida art and its importance to Haida culture
  • Name at least one modern Haida artist and reference one of their works

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