Northwest Coast Images


Pygmy Octopus
Feb 12, 2004
I have been searching for clear images of octopuses in Tlingit, Salish, Kwakiutl, etc. artwork. Although I have found several, they aren't exactly clear enough to work from. Does anyone know of any reference books with decent depictions of carvings and paintings from these cultures?

Avast Wartooth,

Great question, and I'm very glad you potsed your query here. The link below has been gathering dust in my scrapbook for months: Resources/Totems/MosquitoLegend.htm

The Tlingit Legend pole depicted is in Sitka National Historical Park, Alaska.

The Park's home page directs people interested in totem carvings to read
"Carved History" by Marilyn Knapp, published by the Alaska Natural History Association. With GPO (Giant Pacific Octopus) and giant squids like Moroteuthis in the neighborhood, it stands to reason the Alaskan tribes would represent them.

Can't wait to hear about what your findings, Wartooth. Welcome to

Yours truly,

Thanks Clem. That link might just point me in the right direction. My family and I lived in the northwest for many years before being forced into moving to the dusty mountains of Reno. Was inundated with native mythology up there, and that of the Devilfish legends really struck me. What was most fascinating is the fact that even though highly feared in legend, the octopus is said to be the companion totem of most accomplished shamans. Perhaps due to its mysterious nature and deep-water "underworld" locale.

The reason for the clear images ... I am coming up on my 35th birthday and was designing another tattoo. Every five years like clockwork. Already have a Kwakiutl healing frog on my back shoulder. Was looking for an image for my left arm. Am currently having my Haida octopus armband tattoo reworked on my right (ten years old now and fading slightly).

Will let you know what I come up with.


Above is a ceremonial mask of the Kwakiutl tribe, inhabitants of what is now British Columbia. "Devilfish" were potent symbols in Kwakiutl society, also potent as occasional real-life antagonists. The link below has an account of the American artist, ethnographer and author Edward Sheriff Curtis's visit with the Kwakiutl in 1910, and the trouble he got into with a big octopus.


Sponsor Banner
please support our sponsor
advertise on TONMO

Shop Amazon

Shop Amazon
Shop Amazon; support TONMO!
Shop Amazon
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.