The name “Haida” is derived from the word “Hidery” meaning “the people.” The Haida tribe is considered one of the oldest traceable populations in the New World. The Haida are the native people of the west coast of North America. Politically the Haida are acknowledged in Canada as being a First Nation people. Their ancestral language is the Haida language, which is now extremely endangered. Haidas are frequently referred to as fearsome warriors.
Most Haida objects are decorated with crests -- figures of animals, birds, sea creatures and mythic beings -- that immediately identify the moiety (Raven or Eagle) and often the lineage of the owner. Haida have almost seventy crest figures, less than a score are in general use. The Haida culture believes that the great spirit, “Ne-kilst-Lass” created the world. This spirit takes on the form of a Raven. The Raven is responsible for creating the world. Although most impressively expressed in large monumental totem poles, this highly disciplined design is applied to a wide range of materials, including the human body through tattooing.
Haida society is divided into two groupings, one called Raven and the other Eagle. There are a variety of subgroups that fall into either of these 'moieties'. The moieties and their subgroups of Clans, or matrilineal lineages, own unique combinations of crests and other intellectual properties such as songs and names often expressed in haidan tattoos. Tattoos were put on the thighs, chest, shoulders, forearms, backs of the hands and even all of the sections of fingers.
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