Haida, Argillite, and the Pig War

Carved argillite from Belle Vue Sheep Farm, San Juan Island. Source: NPS.

I don’t know as much about the 1859 Pig War as you might think, having spent an awful lot of time on San Juan Island. This “war”, which was more of an armed standoff between British and American troops, was a key event in the various mid-19th century boundary disputes.  One key location was Belle Vue Sheep Farm, near the southern tip of San Juan Island, where there has recently been some interesting historical archaeological work by the U.S. National Parks Service.

One interesting find at this dig is a piece of carved argillite, shown above, which most likely stems from Haida Gwaii (see page 7 of this PDF report, browse other NW NPS reports here).  Around this time there were plenty of Haida and other North Coast Nations around the Victoria area, and so it is not surprising, really, to see this piece.  And yet, it is also a stroke of massive good fortune to have such a distinctive piece of the turbulent 19th century history of First Nations.

Intriguingly, a key figure on the American side of the Pig War was George Pickett, who later achieved substantial fame for leading Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War,

Ironically for someone who later fought for the racist Confederacy, Pickett was once married to a Haida woman by the name of Sâkis Tiigang.   (More often known as “Morning Mist”, this site gives her Haida name as beSakkis Tiigang while the Pickett Society in a detailed article gives her the slightly more authoritative-seeming name Sâkis Tiigang, meaning “Mist Lying Down”).  They had a son together, the artist James Tilton Pickett who, without wanting to generalize overly, certainly looks like a Haida man.  Shortly after the birth of young James in 1857, Sâkis Tiigang passed away.

Probably there is no tangible connection between Morning Mist/Sâkis Tiigang and this carved piece of her homeland, but surely there is a poetic one.

James Tilton Pickett, son of Sâkis Tiigang and George Pickett/ 1857-1889. Source: Pickett Society.

One response to “Haida, Argillite, and the Pig War

  1. I will never understand American History. The worst race riots in American history were in New York City. Two New York City Democrats invented the term miscegenation during the 1864 election campaign. Confederate camps were full of Blacks. Northern Camps were highly segregated. Very confusing. Makes one think the war really wasn’t fought over slavery.

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