Religious Beliefs. Animals were classified as special types of people, more intelligent than humans and with the ability to transform themselves into human form. Animals were thought to live on land, in the sea, and in the sky in a social order that mirrored that of the Haida. Traditional beliefs have been largely displaced by Christianity, although many Haida still believe in reincarnation.
Ceremonies. The Haida prayed and gave offerings to the masters of the game animals and to the beings who gave wealth. Major ceremonial events were feasts, potlatches, and dance performances. High-ranking men were expected to host these events. Property was distributed through the Potlatch on a number of occasions including the building of a cedar house, naming and tattooing of children, and death. Potlatches also included feasts and dance performances, although a feast might be given apart from the potlatch.
Arts. As with other Northwest Coast groups, carving and painting were highly developed art forms. The Haida are Renowned for their totem poles in the form of house-front poles, memorial poles, and mortuary columns. Painting Usually involved the use of black, red, and blue-green to produce highly stylized representations of the zoomorphic matrilineal crest figures. The body of a high-ranking individual was often tattooed and faces were painted for ceremonial purposes.
Death and Afterlife. Treatment of the deceased reflected status differentials. For those of high rank, after lying in state for a few days in the house, the body was buried in the lineage gravehouse where it remained either permanently or until it was placed in a mortuary pole. When the pole was erected, a potlatch was held both to honor the deceased and to recognize his successor. Commoners were usually buried apart from the nobles, and carved poles were not erected. Slaves were tossed into the sea. The Haida believed strongly in reincarnation, and sometimes before death an individual might choose the parents to whom he or she was to be reborn. At death, the soul was transported by canoe to the Land of the Souls to await reincarnation.