Argillite Carvings (Haida)

CMC PCD 95-443-036 CMC PCD 95-443-031
CMC PCD 95-072-064 CMC PCD 95-443-048
CMC PCD 95-072-061 CMC PCD 95-072-056
CMC PCD 95-443-015 CMC PCD 95-443-042
CMC PCD 95-439-005 CMC PCD 95-443-022
CMC PCD 95-438-090 CMC PCD 95-438-094
  1. Pipe (Raven, wolf, whale, bear and eagle). Collected by Andrew A. Aaronson, 1879. CMC VII-B-793

  2. Pipe (Indian's head, Raven and feather motifs). Collected by Andrew A. Aaronson, 1889. CMC VII-B-817

  3. Pipe (crest figures and motifs from European images). Gift of George J. Rosengarten. CMC VII-B-1841

  4. Plate (whale design); abalone shell, whalebone inlay; attributed to Tom Price. Collected by Edward C. Counter. CMC VII-B-1552

  5. Oval plate (shark design); abalone shell, ivory inlay; attributed to John Robson. Collected by Lord Bossom, 1900. CMC VII-B-1425

  6. Oval plate (Wasgo or Sea Wolf design); Haida Gwaii; attributed to Tom Price. Collected by G.M. Dawson, 1885. CMC VII-B-760

  7. Totem pole (chief, shark and grizzly); Haida Gwaii; attributed to Charles Edenshaw. Collected by Israel W. Powell, 1879. CMC VII-B-828

  8. Totem pole (grizzly bear, beaver, Raven's head and eagle); Haida Gwaii. Collected by Israel W. Powell, 1879. CMC VII-B-787

  9. Totem pole (crest figures and motifs from European images. Collected by S.H. Harris, ca.1870. CMC VII-X-306

  10. Sculpture (three bears and a man); Haida Gwaii. Collected by Lord Bossom, ca. 1900. CMC VII-B-1426

  11. Sculpture (medicine woman in full regalia); cedar bark neck ring; Haida Gwaii. Collected by Andrew A. Aaronson, ca. 1899. CMC VII-B-810

  12. Sculpture (man, child, bear and frog); Haida Gwaii. Collected by Lord Bossom, ca. 1900. CMC VII-B-1438

Argillite is a fine-grained black silt stone found in only one deposit, in Slatechuck Creek on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). It was first carved by the Haida around 1800 to make pipes for tobacco rituals performed at funerals. Among the favourite images carved on the pipes were mythical heroes such as: the Raven and Bear; European ships and sailors; indigenous tobacco plants; and dragonflies and butterflies, which were believed to transport the souls of the deceased.

Sailors from ships engaged in the maritime fur trade on Haida Gwaii, from the 1820s on, purchased argillite carvings as mementos to take home to New England and Europe. As the fur trade dwindled, the Haida developed a wide range of platters, cups and miniature totem poles embellished with crest designs that appealed strongly to Victorian tastes.

In the late nineteenth century, the village of Skidegate produced famous argillite carvers such as Tom Price (Chief Ninstints), John Robson (Chief Giatlins) and John Cross. Masset was home to Charles Edenshaw (Chief Tahayren), the most famous argillite carver. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, artists did not sign their works. Today, many argillite carvers carry on the tradition in both villages.

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