IN MEMORIAM: Bill Reid (1920-1998)

Farewell to a Friend

A photo-essay on the funeral of Bill Reid

by George and Joanne MacDonald

The ceremony surrounding this multi-day event made it almost like a state funeral. Events began on July 3, 1998, at Skidegate (home village of Bill's mother) and ended with the burial of his ashes at his grandmother's birth-village of Tanu on July 5.
It was widely attended by residents of the islands of Haida Gwaii and by guests from farther afield. Among the dignitaries in attendance were the chiefs of Skidegate, Skedans, Cumshewa and Tanu.
The memorial began with a feast in the Skidegate council hall. In front of the head table, where were seated Bill's wife Martine, his sister and other relatives and special guests, was placed his coffin and atop it the mortuary box containing his ashes; the mortuary box was a replica of the historical box in the American Museum of Natural History, which Bill had considered "the final exam" in his long study of Haida design. Beside the coffin was displayed Bill's button blanket.
The coffin, decorated with traditional Haida motifs, was made by Haida carver Don Yeomans.
A tribute from the Nisga'a was given in a song performed by the Nyce family.
Artist Robert Davidson also honoured his old mentor with a song.
While members of the Wolf Clan paid tribute with a dance.

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