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Spirit on the Water

January 27th, 2016 by

"Coming for the bride" by Edward S. Curtis, depicts a Guauaenok war canoe used in the marriage rites of the Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island

Nova Craft Canoe was founded in 1970 by Ken Fisher in Glanworth, Ontario. When Ken retired the company was purchased by its current owners in the fall of 1986. Along with Ken’s moulds, the new owners inherited the Nova Craft name and the thunderbird logo.

Ken Fisher’s original logo


he thunderbird features cross-culturally in the lore, legend, and artworks of many North American indigenous tribes. It is especially significant in the cultural history of tribes in the Pacific Northwest including the Haida, Nootka and the Coast Salish, although it also appears in oral histories of the southwest American Indian, tribes of the Great Lakes and of the Great Plains.

While descriptions of the thunderbird vary according to each tribe, it is universally said to be a being of supernatural size and power. Capable of causing great storms, the thunderbird produces thunder claps by flapping its wings and, in some legends, shoots lightning by blinking its eyes. The thunderbird also appears in myths which explain the occurrence of natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis.

“Thunderbird” by renowned Haida artist Don Yeomans, 1980

As a potent force of natural activity the thunderbird is revered in Native American cultures. Amongst tribes of the Pacific Northwest it is considered the most powerful of all spirits, earning top spot of the totem pole which symbolizes its great power and dominion in the natural order. Additionally, thunderbird effigies can be found on the cedar war canoes of coastal tribes (shown above).

In 2009 the Nova Craft logo was updated for a more contemporary look. Inspired by indigenous art of the region, the current logo better reflects the reverence for the thunderbird amongst tribes of the Pacific Northwest.

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