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Native American Killer Whale Mythology (Orca or Blackfish)

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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Killer whales are also used as a clan animal in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Killer-Whale Clans include the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Kwakiutl tribes. Killer-Whale is used as a clan crest in many Northwest Coast tribes, and can often be found carved on totem poles.

Native American Legends About Killer Whales

*A Killer Whale Story:
    Tlingit legend about the origin of killer whales.

Recommended Books of Killer Whale Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Storm Boy:
    Children's book based on a Haida and Tlingit tale about a boy who learns from the Killer Whale people.
Orca's Song:
    Fiction book loosely based on a Northwest Coast legend that Killer Whale was born from the union of Whale and Osprey.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meaning of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on whales.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian legends about whales and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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