From Cheryl Shearar’s “Understanding Northwest Coast Art”:
Bear is one of the most prevalent figures in crest and shamanic art, as well as in myths. It is considered to be a close relation of human-kind, perhaps because of physical characteristics such as size, appearance, and expression, and behaviours such as standing on two hind legs, gathering plants and berries, fishing and nurturing young.
As a close relation to humans, the bear is a link between the human and non-human animal realms, as well as, between the ordinary natural realm and the supernatural. Because of their strength and fierceness, bears are frequently the guardians, protectors and helping spirits of warriors.
Bear is depicted with a wide mouth and lips, sharp teeth, short squared ears, ovoid eyes, large clawed feet with the tongue sometimes protruding and extending downwards.
Amongst the Haida, bears are also the clan ancestor of particular family groups that trace their lineage to Bear Mother. In the stories told about this figure, a high-ranking woman who is picking berries steps in bear dung and then insults the bears. A Bear chief hears the insult and taking human form, appears and abducts her. The Bear chief takes her as a wife and she gives birth to twin cubs with extraordinary powers. The unwilling bride is eventually rescued from the Bear village by a relative, and brought back with her cubs to her home village. These human-bear children are considered the ancestors of those who claim Bear as a crest.