December 8, 2001 at 5 PM
17,000 year-old bear bones found on the Queen Charlottes help illuminate the history of the Pacific Coast and the Haida people.
A decorative cigarette lighter at a party I went to last night swelled some welcome recognition in me. Growing up in Vancouver, I enjoyed a healthy exposure to Haida art, to the end that I remember thinking of it as the ‘default’ native art. Endless class field trips to the Vancouver Art Gallery etched the paintings of Emily Carr and the sculptures of Bill Reid onto my memory, while the totem poles of Stanley Park seem like so much pleasant scenery. But like broccoli and Fred Penner, often the thing forced down our throats becomes the thing we don’t appreciate.
It is only much later in life that I have had the chance to look anew and realize just how distinctive and beautiful the Haida style is — to appreciate, for example, the incredible energy behind the construction and erection of an enormous totem pole.
I will shamefully admit for all my childhood indoctrination, I don’t exactly have an impressive knowledge of who’s whom in the world of Haida art, although I suspect not many do considering how often Canadian native people have been individually recognized for anything.
But short of a visit to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, you might want to take a peek at the work of Bill Reid, whose works remain at the peak of raw power and beauty.