From the photographer: This is a fantastically detailed sculpture found in the Seattle Aquarium.
Created as a tribute to endangered killer whales and Coastal tribes from Puget Sound to Alaska, Odin Lonning’s Killer Whale Pod of Many Nations panel symbolizes the enduring bond between First Nations and killer whales, regarded as sacred by many Northwest Native peoples.
From left to right, the whales exemplify Tlingit, Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw, and Coast Salish motifs.
On display in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, this colorful headdress from the Museum’s collection represents a supernatural serpent, most likely a lightning snake. For the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, a headdress like this one would be part of the regalia worn by ceremonial dancers who have inherited the privilege of taking the role of this creature.
“Lightning snake” sea monsters in the legends of Nuu-chah-nulth mythology, they were said to be large enough to prey on orca, stunning the whales with lightning shot from their mouths or stabbing at them with their knife-like snouts. Fishermen or hunters seeing a haietlik was supposed to bring good luck.