Thanks to a reader of Dissident Voice and going to one of my blogs, paulhaeder.com, a reader sent me these comments below, the crux of which my failure to attribute the artist to three of the photos I took in British Columbia years ago while attending the Summer Sustainability Course at the university in Vancouver, UBC.
I want to put those images of Bill Reid’s work — amazing carvings, as large as a VW bug, at the BC Museum of Anthropology, an amazing place I visited on the off hours of that week-long green course I was at.
“The Raven and the First Men sculpture was commissioned by Walter and Marianne Koerner for the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the sculpture is currently on display.”
Absolutely remiss of me, and in my zeal to photograph and to post, I failed to attribute the magnificent artist who created these moving and universally deep carvings. My Bad, for sure.
I have been in many many countries and taken a million photographs and when they are utilized in more traditional journalism pieces, I make sure the place, the art, the people, the land are attributed.
In no way am I part of some cultural appropriation game, and the reader’s email prompted me to reflect on own space now on the Oregon Coast, in a house in Waldport, on land that the Siletz Tribe once traveled through and hunted and considered/consider sacred.
I was at the devil’s punch-bowl, just down the road — and I have written about that place. Ironically, under some salal and covered up and now with tons of idiotic scratch marks, there is a plaque that announces that the very spot the tourist — me, that day — was standing on was once a traditional and long-used beach for Siletz clamming and mussel collecting.
This federal piece of land, used to entice travelers to the edge of the Pacific down to the small beach near the geological feature that spits in and out the tides of our coast line.
The indignity of the plaque way out of the view of most tourists because it is a bit of a climb down over rocks to get to it.
And that is the rub in Turtle Island, how degraded the history of the original people’s and Indians is in both countries. I have lived in BC and my mom and her parents lived in Powell River (grandparents came from Scotland and Ireland to Canada).
So before the European settlement in the area, the land was inhabited by Coast Salish peoples of the Tla’amin Nation and was used as a landing spot for gold prospectors coming from Vancouver Island who were drafting the Fraser River in order to find quick riches prior to the creation of the Cariboo Road.
Throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, Washington, Oregon and other places, I have experienced the clear agnotology being alive and well — erasing of memory, erasing of facts, the creation of fiction, i.e. this place was nothing, or empty or savage before the white race plowed into this land (and all the other lands around the world).
“Agnotology is the study of willful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favor
It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of willful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favor.
“I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power… and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.
“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.” — Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University
I will follow through on a much more thorough and reverent piece on just where we are in Klanada and the United Snakes of America when it comes to the original peoples, the indigenous, the first nations, the Indians.
But thanks to Susan T. for getting a hold of me. Mea culpa. Long live the Haida. Long live artists.
Comment: I liked many of your photographs. I am wondering why you did not attribute the carvings that I think are by Bill Reid, a Haida Gwaii artist, to him. The ones about the origin of humans.
Comment: I just finished watching a documentary about Robert Davidson and Haida Gwaii and art etc. Watching that, I thought once or twice how you have a photograph of a carving by Bill Reid, the Raven and the first men, but you only have your name on it as the photographer. You did not attribute that work of art to the artist. https://spiritsofthewestcoast.com/collections/bill-reid. I am puzzled as to how and why you would do that. Haida people have struggled to save Haida Gwaii and to save themselves. It seems almost like violence to show a photograph that you took and attribute the photograph to yourself, but ignore the artist who did the carving.
Who was Bill Reid?
“Joy is a well-made object, equaled only by the joy of making it” – Bill Reid, 1988
Bill Reid (1920-1998) was an acclaimed master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer, broadcaster, mentor and community activist. Reid was born in Victoria, BC to a Haida mother and an American father with Scottish German roots, and only began exploring his Haida roots at the age of 23. This journey of discovery lasted a lifetime and shaped Reid’s artistic career.
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art was created in 2008 to honour his legacy and celebrate the diverse indigenous cultures of the Northwest Coast. Bill Reid infused Haida traditions with his own modernist aesthetic to create both exquisitely small as well as monumental work that captured the public’s imagination, and introduced a timeless vocabulary to the modern world.
Reid became a pivotal force in building bridges between Indigenous people and other peoples. Through his mother, he was a member of the Raven clan from T’aanuu with the wolf as one of his family crests. Raven is known as a mischievous trickster, who also plays an important part in transforming the world. Many of these traits matched Bill Reid’s personality. In 1986, Reid was presented with the Haida name Yaahl Sgwansung, meaning The Only Raven.
The inspiring and beautiful story of famed Haida artist Robert Davidson in a documentary by Vancouver’s Charles Wilkinson. Born to a “vanishing race,” Robert became a key figure in the fight for survival of his people, a fight that deeply impacted Western culture.
One thought on “Haida Gwaii & Failing to Attribute”
From the original contact (see Comments above) who discovered my failure to cite the amazing creator of those wood carvings:
I am happy and grateful that you looked into this so thoroughly. The documentary, Haida Modern, is about Robert Davidson, a Haida artist who was mentored by Bill Reid for a while. It also talks about how the Haida have worked, mostly through art in this doc, to re-connect with Haida culture after colonization and about the continuing attempts to save Haida Gwaii from logging companies and other effects of colonization.