From Cheryl Shearar’s “Understanding Northwest Coast Art”:
The beaver, well known for its industriousness and building skills, is a common inhabitant throughout the Northwest Coast region. It was once widely hunted for its pelt, and knives with beaver-tooth blades were used before the introduction of iron tools.
Beaver appears in Northwest Coast mythology and is a crest in many regions. During the fur trade days, demand for beaver pelt increased as hunters depleted sea otter populations, and a Beaver crest affiliation sometimes gave individuals the right to trade in pelts.
According to one myth, the first Beaver was a woman whose husband was driven by the disapproval of his wife’s family, to prove himself a great provider. His hunting trips were frequent and long, and his lonely wife took solace swimming, enlarging her pond with a dam and building her own water dwelling. Eventually, she turned into a Beaver. Their children were Beaver People, like their transformed mother, and the founders of human Beaver lineages.
In myth and legend, Beavers keep to themselves (they are busy!) and care little for the activities of humans, except when they feel their work is disparaged or their skill insulted. They also give wise advice, so it is best to listen when they do decide to speak.
Beaver is one of Raven’s uncles. Raven stole many treasures from Beaver, including his house, his watery environment, his clever tools and all his salmon.
A magic giant Beaver can cause natural disasters with one slap of its wide, flat, strong tail.
In Haida mythology and art, Beaver has a prominent place. Along with Raven, he is intimately connected with Snag, Sea Wolf, Sea Bear and other powerful beings of the undersea world.