CBC`s Bill Reid remembered as one of Canada`s cultural greats
(too old to reply)
2017-05-17 05:32:49 UTC
Canada 150: Bill Reid made Haida art recognizable across the country
by Kevin Griffin

May 16, 2017 12:01 AM PDT

Bill Reid with Haida dog salmon design. May 25, 1976. The Province. No photo credit. [PNG Merlin Archive]

Bill Reid’s final resting place was chosen with great care. The artist’s ashes were taken by canoe and laid to rest at Quadusgaa, a former village in Haida Gwaii close to Tanu where Reid’s grandmother was born.

* Reid worked at stations in Victoria and Kelowna and CKWX Vancouver during the 1930s and '40s, and at a total of 17 radio stations in Canada before joining CBC in the late 1940s.

Bill Reid - CFCT Victoria 1938-39; CKOV Kelowna 1939; announcer CKWX Vancouver 1940s; worked at a total of 17 radio stations in Canada before joining CBC; CBC Toronto 1948-52; CBC Vancouver 1952-60s including host Theme and Variations and wrote and narrated CBC-TV film People of the Potlatch; Northwest Coast Native artist and one of Canada's most celebrated and accomplished contemporary artists; designed and built Spirit of Haida Gwaii sculpture for Canadian Embassy in Washington DC 1990, with full-sized replica installed at Vancouver Airport 1996; recipient of the province's highest award for outstanding achievement, the Order of British Columbia 1994. Died in Vancouver March 13, 1998 at age 78.

When he died on March 13, 1998, he was 78 years old and one of the country’s most celebrated artists. His work continues to be seen by thousands of people every day.

At the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, there is Reid’s The Raven And The First Men, which depicts in cedar the Haida creation story. At the Vancouver Aquarium, Chief Of The Undersea World is a breaching killer whale in bronze. At the Vancouver International Airport, the Spirit Of Haida Gwaii, the monumental bronze sculpture also known as The Jade Canoe, is prominently located in the International Terminal. Between 2004 and 2012, it was on the $20 bill. Plus, there is the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in downtown Vancouver where Reid’s works, including jewelry, are on permanent display.

“Once we discard our ethnocentric, hierarchical ideas of how the world works, we will find that one basic quality unites all the works of mankind that speak to us in human, recognizable voices across the barrier of time, culture and space, ” he once wrote. “The simple quality of being well made.”

Reid was born in Victoria and raised an Anglican. He carved and whittled as a youngster, but there was no indication he would become the dominant indigenous artist of his era. It wasn’t until his late teens that he became aware that his mother was Haida.

Read more Canada 150 profiles of great British Columbians

As an adult in the 1950s, his voice was heard across the country as a broadcaster for the CBC. While in Toronto, he studied jewelry making at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.

In 1954, he made a trip to Haida Gwaii that changed him forever. He saw a pair of bracelets carved by his great-great uncle, the master artist Charles Edenshaw.

After that encounter, “the world was not the same,” he said.

The Bill Reid Rotunda at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology houses The Raven And The First Men sculpture by Bill Reid. Stuart Davis / PNG

Although he believed colonialism had seriously damaged Haida culture, Reid created an estimated 1,500 works in the Haida tradition during the next 50 years. They ranged in size from small pieces of jewelry to big public sculptures.

Before he died, Reid said all the different figures in The Jade Canoe were a long way from their home in Haida Gwaii. They were still squabbling and vying for position in the canoe.

“Is the tall figure who may or may not be the Spirit of Haida Gwaii leading us, for we are all in the same boat, to a sheltered beach beyond the rim of the world as he seems to be, or is he lost in a dream of his own dreamings?” Reid wrote. “The boat moves on, forever anchored in the same place.”

Michael Black
2017-05-22 18:15:30 UTC
Post by DanNospamSay
Canada 150: Bill Reid made Haida art recognizable across the country
by Kevin Griffin
I've been thinking about this. Totem poles and Haida art, and some Inuit
art, has become iconic "Canadian art", moving beyond some subcategory of
"Canadian art".

An Inuit artist died a few years ago, and seeing some of her (I think it
was a her) art in the articles reminded me that there had long been a
poster in our hose in the sixties that must have been her art.

And there's a totem pole in downtown Montreal now, it's there for the
summer, carved with the theme of the residential schools. It's big, and
wonderful, I sat with it for twenty minutes last week, I intend to make it
a weekly thing.

But this is art that others tried to erase. I'm pretty sure I've read
that totem poles and Haida art were things they weren't supposed to do,
right up there with things like potlatches. It was part of the general
attempt at erasing People.

And lots of People have decided to bring the art back. Not just Bill Reid.
In the pacific northwest some of the people are building traditional
canoes again, other People providing huge logs. I forget who, but one
People were making two right now, one with traditional tools, the other
with power tools. It's something they have to learn again, and they are
using them to visit other People.

And if they couldn't have it, why should others? At some point in the
future, maybe anyone can, but not until the People it originally belonged
to become visible and get some money for the art (if they are trying to
make some money), let that flourish again before others take on "cultural

The People in the northwest had it relatively easy, never too cold, never
too hot, it was a relatively easy life, helped along by the bounty of the
forests and the rivers and ocean. So they had lots of time to make art,
which is why Haida art and totem poles is so iconic. It's good art,
period. But they lost so much when disease came over from Europe,
suddenly they had less time for art, and then of course rules that forbid
it, and residential schools that tried to erase it. In two years, it will
be fifty years since the occupation of Alcatraz, and that was a fairly big
change, a start at all that followed since. A reclaiming of it all. But
it needs time.