HlGaa K’uujang.uu | Argillite Pipe | Artist Unknown | c.1890 | Haida

The argillite carving surge of the 1800s has an interesting and tragic history. An increased popularity as a trade item during the sea otter fur trade, the black slate also served as “survival art”. Sourced from one quarry near HlGaagilda Llnagaay Skidegate Village on the southern end of Haida Gwaii, argillite took place as an acceptable medium to maintain our traditional artforms. Our oral histories, visually depicted traditionally in huge carvings of cedar poles, translated into small carvings sold at colonial market or traded to ships as they passed our territory.  

This medium helped Haida artists maintain the rules and forms that dictate Haida traditional artworks through to the 1950s when the Potlatch Ban was finally lifted. It also helped to visualise our oral histories through the religious overtones of colonial occupation. 

Tobacco was traded from southern indigenous trading partners and seeds brought home for cultivation.  

This panel pipe has several designs carved into it, frog, killer whale, raven, heron, bear, killer whale, hawk, all telling a story that was survived by the carver, now unknown to us. 

—Aay Aay Hans and James McGuire, Haida Gwaii Museum 

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