The Wolf | Indigenous Symbolism 


Wolf has varying meanings across the Pacific Northwest. Each tribe, clan, and family has distinct and unique associations with Wolf. All Indigenous symbols and crests have significant cultural and historical associations. Many of these symbols can represent the stories, traits, and values that hold a special significance to Indigenous Peoples. In retail jewellery, these symbols still hold significance but aren’t held to the same cultural standard. Regardless, we believe learning more about these legends' beauty and depth brings the wearer more pleasure.

Wolf is the teacher of new ideas and wisdom, Wolf shows intense loyalty balanced with independence. It is known as the agent of transformation and is a popular crest figure and legend in Pacific Northwest Indigenous art and culture. 

Depictions of The Wolf In Indigenous Art

To spot the Wolf figure in Indigenous art, look for a long snout with large nostrils. Wolf is oftentimes mistaken for Bear. Both these symbols share sharp teeth with prominent fangs, ovoid eyes, and clawed feet. When distinguishing between the two symbols, look for Wolf’s snout, tall ears, and bushy or curled tail. 

Also Read:  Bear Symbolism | Indigenous Art & Jewellery

Wolf pendant made with sterling silver. In this depiction by artists Hollie Bartlett, Wolf has large nostrils and prominent fangs emerging from his toothy grin. Hollie uses a blue topaz gemstone for his ovoid eye.

Indigenous artists may frequently depict Wolf with Orca motifs in their art. Like Orcas, Wolves mate for life and are renowned for very similar reasons, such as hunting and communication. Including these motifs could be the artist describing their significant relationship or the artist depicting a Sea Wolf.  

Also Read: The Orca | Indigenous Symbolism in Art and Jewellery

The Wolf Symbolism

The Wolf represents loyalty, family, communication, wisdom, teaching, and intelligence. In nature, Wolves are pack animals with excellent communication and body language skills needed for hunting and protection. As such, Wolf is often viewed as a family-oriented animal and acts as a good luck charm for hunters and fishers. 

Wolf is also a symbol of leadership and intelligence. In many ways, he teaches us to cooperate among packs or family groups. Wolf is the most supernatural land creature in Indigenous cultures and is often called upon as a spirit helper. 

When a person is lacking purpose or direction, Wolf can act as a comforting symbol. Wolf’s determination and ability to overcome fear allow for clarity and precision. 

The Wolf In Northwest Coast Cultures

Wolves heavily populate the Pacific Northwest Coast. The only place in this territory that does not have Wolves in nature is Haida Gwaii. Many believe this is why there is a lack of Wolf art among Haida artists. However, Wolf is a prominent crest symbol among Tlingit and Tsimshian clans. 

Many Canadian First Nations believe wolves are reincarnated hunters. As mentioned, the Wolf acts as an inspiration or good luck charm to warriors and hunters. For example, hunters would carve and paint Wolves on canoes to help their hunting skills on the water. 

Wolves are also said to have taught men the secrets of whaling. Many legends describe Wolf’s cleverness and superior communication skills. One story tells of four wolf cubs who sought refuge at the top of a mountain during a flood. Once the flood cleared, the cubs howled to see if there were any other survivors. Eventually, they were found by humans and would later join the human’s community. 

Also Read: Eagle Symbolism | Indigenous Art & Jewellery

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