There are an abundance of body art designs that feature tribal art work; however one of the most distinctive has to be the Haida tattoo. While this is less common than more popular designs such as Polynesian or Hawaiian, it is becoming more popular as more tattoo enthusiasts discover the history and symbolism behind it. The Haida tribe are an indigenous people who originate from a group of islands on the Canadian coast and are believed to be one of the oldest traceable populations in the New World, also settling on the west coast of North America.
The Haidas had a reputation as fearsome warriors and the artwork used for a Haida tattoo emulates their bloodthirsty hunger for battle in bold black and sharp defined red inks, the signature hallmark for designs of this nature. Traditional Haida body art consists of a design crest combined with an animal that represents something of personal significance to the wearer. The animal images used represent key human traits and a favourite with many who admire this artwork is the thunderbird which has connotations of magic and all things mystical. In this culture, each animal is instilled with a particular force; therefore the meaning of these tattoo designs originates from the symbolic importance of the particular animal as it is depicted in Haida folklore. Like many cultural tattoo designs, different animals have different symbolism so the bear represents strength, power and fierceness whereas sea birds have a very contrasting meaning of peace and godliness. Other popular Haida animal images include various Haida Fish, Whale, Dolphin and Shark designs as well as the Haida Hawk, Raven and Eagle designs.
The symbolism of the Haida tattoo will vary when illustrated on the skin of non-native people, who often choose these designs simply because they like the look, however to natives these are of great cultural significance. Regardless of the animal or pattern used, most of these designs were deemed to reflect the wearer’s status as a warrior however for tattoo enthusiasts around the globe; these can be interpreted as a sign of strength, power and a fighting spirit. Some may simply be fond of a particular animal and find that a Haida inspired tattoo is a more unique way to express this. For instance, the frog does not have extreme symbolic value for the Haida but it is a popular choice for this type of body art even without any tribal meaning. Both men and women of the tribe were tattooed, although the symbolism was very different for the differing sexes. These were inked all over the body from the thighs, chest and shoulders to the forearms, backs of the hands and even all of the sections of fingers. If this style of artwork appeals to you, then it is worth doing some thorough research before you go ahead with your chosen design, as it is important to investigate the meaning of Haida tattoos. That way you can be sure that you know exactly your tattoo represents rather than simply choosing one that looked good.