Tag Archives: Haida Gwaii

Mechanical representation in a Haida Pipe

Haida Pipes, 1837. From U. Washington Collection.

I don’t know much about these early historic Haida argillite pipes.  These ones are illustrated in Edward Belcher’s Narrative of a voyage round the world, 1843, v.1, p. 309.  The lower one captured my attention, with its representation of a conveyor belt (?!) – or, more likely, a block-and-tackle/pulley setup.  The playful seriousness of these pipes is astounding – as can be seen in my earlier post on the SS Beaver pipe.  I would like to see a photograph of this one but I have no idea where it may have ended up.

The image is via the superb University of Washington Digital NW collections.

dSpace: The Indian History Film Project

Haida Town of Chaatl. Source: NMC

There is an interesting archive of interview transcripts housed in dSpace at the University of Regina.  Most of the interviews were by CBC Radio’s Imbert Orchard and so share the flaws of Journalism and Anthropology.   The preamble says,

The original intent of The Indian History Film Project was to conduct interviews with First Nations elders across Canada and to produce a television series portraying Canadian history from a First Nations’ perspective.

The Indian History Film Project was an initiative of Direction Films and was conceived and developed by Tony Snowsill. The project leaders were Tony Snowsill and Christine Welsh. The project evolved over time, and eventually it was decided to access libraries and archives across the country to incorporate existing interviews with First Nations elders. All interviews, whether original or archival, were cross indexed by word and theme and housed in the C.P.R.C [Canadian Plains Research Centre].

A number of these interviews are with Haida people, notably Solomon Wilson and Florence Edenshaw, who discussed her arranged marriage, the meaning of Tow Hill, and the artistic tradition of her family, the Edenshaws and Davidsons.  It appears tapes of these are also available through the BC Archives, but not online.

Note: anytime you see (Indian) it means that a Haida word was not transcribed — an eerie effect.  Searching for British Columbia brings up 91 documents.

The following excerpt from an interview with Solomon Wilson of Skidegate sees him relating a tale of smallpox blankets:

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Pitt Rivers Museum Haida Collection on flickr.com

Any idea what activity is being represented on this Haida argillite carving?

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is one of the world’s great ethnological museums.  Indeed, it is largely presented as a “museum of a museum”, with artifacts and curios displayed in glass cases in juxtapositions that made sense to anthropologists.  Now I see they are putting some of their collection online – one of many interesting innovations going on at that museum.  The Haida Collection which Cara Krmpotich has worked on consists of 200 really well composed and lit photos on the flickr.com website.  Cara notes that she hopes making this material available in this manner will facilitate its use by Haida people and I expect they will (indeed one person with a Haida name has been commenting on some of the photos).  Coincidentally, I see there has recently been a Haida delegation to the Pitt-Rivers museum.

In any case, the flickr set is a fantastic set of images of Haida art and technology. It would be nice to have the full catalogue information or other information associated with these, or at least a statement that such information is lacking.  While there are visually spectacular items throughout the set, also check these plain spoons from SGang’gwaay, Tanu’uu and Masset,  this bird bone whistle, and this tidy little loop of twine.

Haida wooden labret at Pitt Rivers museum.

Argillite Beaver

Haida argillite pipe representing the SS Beaver. Photo: University of Aberdeen.

The SS Beaver was a prominent early side-wheel trading ship on the NW Coast.  Nice to see it memorialized by Haida argillite pipe in the Marischal Museum collection of the University of Aberdeen, along with some other exceptional Haida pipes.  Apparently donated to the museum by the former Captain of the SS Beaver, William Mitchell, this pipe sports a rotating side wheel carved from whale bone, a beaver figurehead, and someone peeking out of the cabin windows, perhaps Capt. Mitchell himself who probably commissioned this carving.  Some other close ups (in an awkward zoomable interface) are  available on the Scots and Aboriginal People in the Fur Trade site.  More on the SS Beaver here.

A figure looking out the window of the SS Beaver pipe.

Sgaawsid K’uuljaad, the Boss Lady Potato.

Sgaawsid K'uuljaad gets funky.

Silly season in Haida Gwaii must have started, as Carey’s potato of unusual size is stolen (and returned), but not before a star appearance or two on youtube.

Skidegate Haida Model Village

Model of Skidegate (hlgaagilda 'llnagaay) as installed at Chicago Exhibition, 1893.

Model of Skidegate (hlgaagilda 'llnagaay) as installed at Chicago Exhibition, 1893.

The Burke Museum in Seattle is doing excellent work.  I just found the project which they are spearheading, together with the Haida Museum at Kaay’llnagaay and the Field Museum in Chicago, to reassemble the famous model village of Skidegate (hlgaagilda ‘llnagaay) created for the 1893  Chicago World Fair.  This exhibition was organized by Putnam, implemented by Boas, who hired James Deans (a well known Victoria antiquarian) to collect some NW Coast stuff.  Deans outdid himself by arranging for the carving of a complete model of Skidegate Village  – amounting to some 27 model houses (most with frontal poles), 2 model mortuary houses, and 17 free standing model poles.  (Deans also apparently collected three boxcars of other material including an entire house, canoe and other material, but that’s another story).

The Burke Museum now allows you to view an interactive panorama of the model village.

The website is designed both to showcase these model houses and also to help find the 13 houses and poles which have gone missing.   The intention is to return the model village to Kaay in 2011.  Replacement poles and houses will be commisioned for those that cannot be found.   A highlight are the videos of Skidegate residents such as Captain Gold, Niis Wes, Percy Williams, Kii7iljuus, and Kwiaahwah Jones talking about the model village, about family, and above all about being Haida yesterday, today and tomorrow.

House of Contentment, model carved by George Dickson

House of Contentment, model carved by George Dickson

Fieldwork Picture of the Day 9

Danny at the helm,  aaaargh Billy.

Danny at the helm, aaaargh Billy.

Underwater research at Section Cove, near Gaadu Din. I posted a picture earlier of a diver on the bottom.  Here is a view from topside — Danny, boat skipper, wise-ass and all round rock solid good guy — has a GPS-linked laptop in front of him which is displaying the bathymetry of Section Cove.  (see the image on Danny’s screen here, courtesy of Daryl).  This enables him to tow the sonar fish exactly where required, or, on this occasion, help position a small dredging bucket for bottom sampling purposes.  With differential GPS, you can position the ship to within less than a metre of where you want it, relative to the bottom.  This means measuring the distance between the GPS antenna and the crane and building in an offset, which is trickier than it sounds. The bathymetry is also sub-metre in resolution.  Thus, we can target the bucket exactly where we want it — of course strong currents and bucket flutter can still move it around some.  It has been slow progress on this work but all the pieces are in place for what could be an exciting breakthrough –  a base camp on a small lake, now drowned, dating to sometime older than 11,500 solar years ago would be most welcome considering most of our other sites of this age are rather one-dimensional.

The purpose of the camp could be base camp for bear hunting in the nearby Gaadu Din caves, or more likely sockeye fishing in the lake-stream system that used to flow along the terrain here, under Danny’s  keel.

The lake, the salmon, the cave, the creek.  Green tones are now underwater.

The lake, the salmon, the cave, the creek. Green tones are now underwater. Image prepared by Daryl.

Vancouver [Native] Art in the Sixties



This 1962 picture of Haida artist Robert Davidson at age 13 caught my eye, not least because he looks a lot like his nephew, Haida archaeologist and great guy Allan “Googa Boy Lefty ClamBone Monica Sunshine” Davidson. Here’s Allan tending to his espresso pot at Richardson Island.  Very shareable.  I am pretty sure this was before I accidentally tossed a grub into his cup.

Maps and Charts at the RBCM

1849 Indian Fort at Cadboro Bay

Indian Fort at Cadboro Bay, 1849

The Royal BC Museum was ahead of the curve in putting significant parts of its collection.  One thing I like is their small but relevant collection of maps and charts.  The 1849 chart inset to the left shows an “Indian Fort” in Cadboro Bay, for example.  There is a good selection of Admiralty Charts from the mid 19th Century, Pemberton’s 1861 map of Victoria (the “Bay” in this section is the real “James Bay”, now landfill under the Empress Hotel , where the bridge shows is now the causeway), and a 1911 map showing the Economic geography of Haida Gwaii (which interestingly includes Sea Otter as part of the fauna “on the west coast” since that species is thought to have been extirpated much earlier).  It is always surprising and sobering to see just how quickly remote areas were divided up and labelled according to their perceived economic value in a way that borders on propaganda, but there is realism too check out the instructions to family men.  Now the bad news: the price of being first is often not being very good.  I suspect when these went online bandwidth was a realy problem.  Each chart is split up into 100kb segments and it is not possible to download the entire thing at once.  The full size images must exist, so how about a quick project at the RBCM to make them downloadable in their entirety?  Same goes for the picture archives.

Stone Fish

From the Hunterian, labelled as 19th Century.

From the Hunterian, labelled as 19th Century.

I can’t get enough of this Haida argillite fish which the Glasgow Hunterian Museum has in their collection. Well, they say it’s a fish but it looks like it has flukes and large fins and if anything it looks like a harbour porpoise.   On the other hand, there is a lateral line as well and the proportions are more like a herring. In any case, it is utterly charming and I have never seen a comparable carving.  It looks to be about 30 cm long, which is quite large.  More from the Hunterian in due course.