"The legend of the Killer Whale is one that I read a few years ago and one that has stuck in my mind ever since. It is what inspired me as I was working on this piece."
According to Tlingit legend (as told by Dan and Nan Kaiper in 'Tlingit; Their Art, Culture & Legends'), the creation of the Killer Whale happened something like this:
There was a young man by the name of Noyt-sy-cla-nay who had a strong connection to "the Great Spirit". Some feared and even resented Noyt-sy-cla-nay for this; most especially two of his brothers-in-law. While on a fishing trip, these two brothers-in-law decided to do away with Noyt-sy-cla-nay by rendering him unconscious and leaving him stranded on a reef where he was certain to drown when the tide would come in and cover the reef entirely. However, the Chief of the Sea Lions came to his rescue and brought Noyt-sy-cla-nay to their underwater village.
There he lived well, but grew homesick within a short time. He begged the Chief to be returned to his village. He was granted freedom on the one condition that he would help the sea lions from their one predator - the whale; he was instucted to create an animal that would be a whale killer (or Killer Whale).
Noht-sy-cla-nay got to work as soon as he reached land. He began by carving a large fish out of spruce, but once completed the animal would not come to life. Then he tried to do the same with hemlock and red cedar, but neither of these animals would come to life either. Finally Noyt-sy-cla-nay got a great big piece of yellow cedar and began to carve a 30 foot fish. He had already decided for himself that this would be his last attempt and if it did not work, he would just have to tell the Chief of the Sea Lions that he had done his best and that his debt to them had been repaid.