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The killer whale (also known as Orca or Blackfish) is an important medicine animal to the Native American tribes of the Northwest Coast. Killer whales are considered a particular symbol of power and strength, and catching sight of one is considered a momentous omen. Some tribes, such as the Tlingit, view the killer whale as a special protector of humankind and never hunted killer whales (although they were accomplished whale hunters of other species.) The Kwakiutl tribes believed that the souls of marine hunters turned into killer whales upon their death, just as the souls of forest hunters turned into wolves. For this reason, there were a number of special rituals regarding the killing of a killer whale, so that its spirit could be reborn as a human once again.
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