Friday, 18 May 2012

Sunday, 13 May 2012


This watercolour is from a photograph of a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, Tluwulahu costume was photographed (ca. 1914) by American photographer and ethnologist Edward Curtis (1868-1952). 

It was published as part of his collective works on the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest on November 13, 1914. Upon publication, this photo was called, A Tluwalahu Costume — Qagyuhl, a phonetic version of the word Kwagu'ł. 

This Chilkat is Wiget — a treasure that was brought down from Alaska by our Tlingit ancestor Mary Ebbets, Anéin, Anisalaga, Drifted Ashore House. It went as dowry to Chief Nagedzi Charles Mountain Wilson and is still danced to this day.

The original photograph is not merely incorrectly named because of this misspelling of Kwagu' but also what Curtis believed it represented. 

The woman you see here is Anisalaga (1823-1919) wearing one of her Chilkat Naaxein traditional Tlingit blanket weavings, a tradition she brought with her from Tongass, Alaska. 

Anisalaga was Tlingit, not Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, though she lived and raised her children in Tsaxis, a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw community on northeastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Anisalaga's mother was Aanseet, Chief-of-All-Women. 

Edward Curtis gained access to those practising Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and Tlingit traditional dance and artistry through Anisalaga's eldest son, George Hunt. 

George is often portrayed as Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw — and leaned into that portrayal — but he was half English and half Tlingit by birth and raised as a boy speaking English and Tlingit in the home. He was later adopted into the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw traditions and gained status but was referred to as the "little northern" because of his mother's Tlingit blood.  

George gained his knowledge and access to Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw traditions through the community in which he lived, Tsaxis, Fort Rupert, on the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island, and once old enough to marry, through his two Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw wives.

The woman wearing this Chilkat is likely Anisalaga, George's mothers' and the only woman, beyond her daughters with the heritage right to don it. It is possible that George asked his new bride, Francine T'łat'ł a ł awid z a m g a, also known as Tsukwani, to wear the Chilkat solely as a model for this photograph. Given that wearing this particular Chilkat was a right by blood, it is highly likely she would have refused. She certainly would not have danced it in public as doing so would shame both her and her husband as Francine did not inherit this right but did inherit dances and costumes of her own.

Photo information: Anisalaga (or one of her daughters) wearing a fringed traditional Chilkat Naaxein Tlingit blanket, a Hamatsa neck ring and mask representing a deceased relative who had been a shaman.

Photo information: Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-52211 (b&w film copy neg.); Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. No renewal in Copyright office. Call Number: LOT 12328-A . Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

This watercolor is an interpretation of J197488 U.S. Copyright Office. Title from item. Curtis no. 3565. Forms part of: Edward S. Curtis Collection (Library of Congress). Published in: The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30, v. 10, p. 244.

Monday, 7 May 2012


The Big House at Tsaxis designed by Tony Hunt
Fort Rupert was and still is an historic Kwagu'ł (Kwakiutl) village by the name of Tsaxis with evidence of occupation reaching back as far as 6000 years before the present. 

Coal was discovered in the adjacent area in 1849 and the Hudson’s Bay Company made the decision to open a coal mine and build a fort the same year. 

The supply of coal in the area was short-lived and overtaken by new fields developed at Nanaimo. 

Although the fort was initially built to protect the coal mining operation, it immediately became the hub of colonial activity along the central coast of British Columbia and northern Vancouver Island. It remained an important post for trade and resupply for the remainder of the 19th Century.

Sadly, most of the records—-reports and financial accounts—-from Fort Rupert have been lost. 

Robert Hunt had been the last Hudson’s Bay Company Factor (Chief Trader) at Fort Rupert.  The records show that he started as a labourer for the HBC in 1850, at £25 per year. His salary was quickly doubled shortly after he started at Fort Rupert. I am guessing that many salaries went up at that time on the Northwest Coast, because the discovery of gold in California in 1849 led to a labour shortage. Robert Hunt met and married Mary Ebbets, a Tlingit noblewoman from Tongass, Alaska. 

Robert Hunt’s brother, who I believe came round Cape Horn with him on the HBC ship the “Norman Morrison”, disappears from the historical record at this time. Did he head off to California? 

From the few remaining records from the 1870s, we learn that Robert Hunt was the last HBC Factor and then its owner. Robert Hunt passed it to his daughter Jane Charity and her husband Harry Tennyson Cadwallader. 

His immediate superiors at Fort Victoria were pleased with his work, his ingenuity in keeping the fort in good repair, and with his reliability. As many of you know, Robert ended up purchasing the fort, including 600 acres of land, in the 1880s. I have not been able to locate any records or reports from Robert’s time at his one-man post on the Nass River.  

Cousin Alec Hunt, who drove trucks up to Port Hardy in the late sixties, and often visited with mom and dad, told my cousin John Lyon that according to family lore, Aunt Lizzie, George and Sarah’s sister, was born up north while Robert ran the trading post on the Nass River. 

Four Kwakwaka’wakw families (septs) settled at Fort Rupert to exploit the trading opportunities the post presented. These groups came to be known collectively as the Kwagu'ł (pronounced Kwa-gyu-thl) or Fort Rupert Kwakiutl Band. 

These groups are identified by Galois (1994) as Walas Kwakiutl (Lakwilala), Komkiutis, Kwakiutl (Kwágu7lh), and Kweeha (Komoyoi).

A catastrophic episode occurred at the village in 1865. Captain Nicholas Edward Brooke Turnour, commanding the British Navy's steam corvette Clio, arrived at the Fort to demand the surrender of three Fort Rupert Kwagu'ł charged with murdering an a man from Nawitti. 

After issuing a number of ultimatums, the Navy ship shelled the adjacent village, often referred to as Ku-Kultz, destroying a large section of it, in addition to about 60 canoes. 

According to anthropologst Johan Adrian Jacobsen, there in 1881, the Navy attack severely impacted the village and its inhabitants. 

Many moved across the strait to the inlets of the mainland, while another 250 to 300 returned and rebuilt the devastated village. (Gough, 1984: 82-84).

There is an image here of Tsaxis circa 1866 by Franz Boas detailing the house ownership by Kwakwaka’wakw family.

From the Bill Reid Centre:

Saturday, 5 May 2012