Haida; North American Indian; Northwest Coast culture area; Tsimshian
Unknown artist, Haida; North American Indian; Northwest Coast culture area; Tsimshian
Raven rattle, before 1925
Wood and pigments
31.8 cm (12 1/2 inches) (length)
Museum Works of Art Fund 44.359
The raven rattle was an important component of the ceremonial costume for chiefs in traditional Northwest Coast cultures. A small sphere held in the raven’s partially open beak symbolizes the sun and refers to a legend describing how the raven stole the sun and brought light to the world. A human figure reclines on its back. The human and a bird share an extended tongue, which probably represents the transfer of power from a spirit to a human. The raven’s belly depicts a transformational figure, called Skahemsen among the Tsimshian, with a beaked nose curving into its mouth.