A literal messenger of joy, this beautiful tiny bird, also called Sah Sen, represents friendship, playfulness, and is a symbol of good luck in Northwest Coastal Native art. It is a positive sign to see Sah Sen prior to a major event such as hunting or traveling to another village. Hummingbird’s ability to hover back and forth at great speeds is believed to be a skill for guiding the people; if they fall behind Hummingbird can easily back up to keep pace.
One story of Hummingbird tells of a warm, spring day. Summer was coming and the wild flowers were in full blossom. A young girl and her mother waded through the green grass, enjoying the bright colours. They stopped as Hummingbird joined them; bussing and darting from flower to flower.
The little creature fascinated the child. She asked, "Why does such a tiny bird want to fly so fast? Why doesn’t it just stay at one flower instead of visiting every one?" Her mother sat down on a hill overlooking the field and said, "Let me tell you the story of Hummingbird."
"Many years ago there was a fragrant flower that rose every spring to display her beautiful petals and bright colours for all the world’s creatures to enjoy. The people and animals waited anxiously each spring for this special flower to appear. On that day they knew the warm, kind rays of summer had arrived. Raven saw how much joy this flower brought to the world, so the next spring when it appeared, he transformed it into a tiny bird. The bird had the colours of the green spring grass and the flashing red of a setting sun. Raven gave the bird a special gift to fly like sunlight flickering through tall trees. He also gave it a message to take to all the flowers. That’s why today we see Hummingbird buzzing from flower to flower, whispering a message. Hummingbird is thanking each flower for making our world a more beautiful place."
The mother looked at her child and said, "As you grow up, remember that like each flower, each person has gifts to give the world. In return that person will be thanked by the birds, animals and flowers for helping to make our world a better place for every one." The above story is as told by Robert James Challenger in the book Eagle’s Reflections and other Northwest Coast Stories available at Hill’s Native Art.