Gwayasdums house under construction 1899. Source: SFU.
The Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies is part of the Department of Archaeology and First Nation Studies at Simon Fraser University, although it is physically located in downtown Vancouver. It currently shares space with the Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby St., near SFU’s Harbour Centre Campus. They have a website that looks to be growing fast with some good content – and despite the name of the centre, it is not only about Haida Art, or even just about Art:
A major activity of the Centre is to visually document through photographs, drawings and other works, the depth and richness of Northwest Coast Art in the hundreds of communities in which monumental architecture and sculpture were recorded.
I’ll point out a few highlights and make some comments “after the jump”
I’m a big fan of classic Northwest Coast art – it’s hard not to be. But there is also a large and highly talented array of indigenous Northwest Coast artists who work in a variety of media and contemporary idioms. One who recently caught my eye is Sitka Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin. You probably recognize the figure in the foreground above: Bill Reid’s iconic “Raven and the First People” (if not from class, then from your 20$ bill), which tells the story of Raven-Travelling in ancient times, finding a clamshell, hearing noises inside, and releasing people and animals into a transforming world.
But wait, what’s that figure in the background, on the other side of the glass window, in the courtyard of the MOA?
Posted in alaska, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, Northwest Coast
Tagged art, Bill Reid, Haida Art, MOA, Museum of Anthropology, museums, Nicholas Galanin, sculpture, Sitka, tlingit, Tlingit Art
Roy Jones of Skidegate climbs a pole at SGang Gwaay. Source: CBC.
Yesterday I noted the upcoming musical about the Bill Reid-Wilson Duff expedition to “rescue” carved poles at the Haida Village of SGang Gwaay (Ninstints). I’ve just found that the CBC has posted online a short documentary, (2013:edit, use this link) first broadcast in 1959 and narrated by Bill Reid, showing the removal of these poles to the Museum of Anthropology at UVIC. The expedition also included Wayne Suttles and Michael Kew, as well as Wilson Duff of course. The Haida crew consisted of Roy Jones, Clarence Jones and Frank Jones of Skidegate. Some aspects of the trip are recounted in the BC Provincial Museum Annual Report of 1957, which I will scan and post some other day.
The spoken component of the documentary is a fascinating account by Reid, at that time just beginning his carving career, but the real jaw-dropping element is the depiction of the use of axes and saws and climbing spikes to log this forest of poles. Necessary, of course, but jarring nonetheless.
Broadcast Date: May 21, 1959
A small boat ferrying Bill Reid and a team of anthropologists approaches the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Reid documents the rescue mission to salvage and relocate the last of the crumbling Haida totems as revealed in this CBC documentary. With a sense of excited urgency, Reid describes and catalogues the enormous poles on the approaching shore. As they are gently felled, the majestic cultural landmarks will creak and groan before they are prepared for transport.
It’s low resolution and grainy, but the general impression is a very powerful one.
Felling a tree, surely, not a pole at SGang Gwaay. Source: CBC.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged Archaeology, archives, artifacts, Bill Reid, conservation, CRM, First Nations, Haida, Haida Gwaii, history, museums, Ninstints, Northwest Coast, SGang Gwaay, Wilson Duff
John Mann of Spirit of the West in "Beyond Eden"
I can hardly believe this, but the Vancouver Playhouse is mounting a new musical based on an event familiar to to all students of archaeology and anthropology n BC. The musical stars John Mann from the band Spirit of the West. From Tom Hawthorn’s blog:
Written by Bruce Ruddell with musical direction by Bill Henderson, formerly of Chilliwack, the musical premieres on Jan. 16 at the Vancouver Playhouse. The musical is based on a 1957 expedition to the Queen Charlotte Islands by the archeologist Wilson Duff and his Haida friend, the artist Bill Reid.
Mr. Mann portrays a character based on the archaeologist, a man who travelled to Haida Gwaii to preserve totem poles, which he bought for $50 each. These can now be seen at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.
“Off the top he believes his job is to keep those poles alive because you can learn from them,” Mr. Mann said. “If they rot, they’re lost, they’re gone forever. No one will be able to study them.
“In the course of those three days, his mind is changed. Then all hell breaks loose.”
This is remarkable and interesting on a number of levels. I’d love to see it.
Wilson Duff was one of the first modern Anthropologists and Archaeologists to work in British Columbia and it seems he had just got started when he died by his own hand in 1976, at the age of 51.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Haida Gwaii, history, Northwest Coast, odd
Tagged anthropology, Archaeology, Bill Reid, Haida, Haida Gwaii, history, musicals, Northwest Coast, ubc, Vancouver Playhouse, Wilson Duff