Unknown artist, Haida; North American Indian; Northwest Coast culture area; Tsimshian
Raven rattle, before 1925
Wood and pigments
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.