Haidas have a special relationship with nature. We must show respect to all life forms. When gathering food, medicine or other materials, we must give thanks to the object and the Creator by singing a song or by saying a heart-felt thanks.

Haida women have a special relationship with the roots and bark that they gather for weaving.

"Cedar bark is said to be every woman’s elder sister." (Swanton, 1905b: 29)

Every person has her own way of showing gratitude to the trees and to the Creator. This is private and sacred knowledge.

Long strips of cedar are pulled from the trees. The dark outer bark is discarded. The remaining bark is wrapped in a bundle. The light bark is stripped into thin pieces to weave. Spruce roots, hlii.ng are more time consuming to harvest. Weavers go to the sandy area of Rose Spit or to moss-covered areas with spruce trees. After collecting the long spruce roots from under the sand, they are roasted on a fire to loosen the outer bark. Once the outer bark is peeled off, the roots are split in half.

The roots are split again until they are the desired thickness. The roots are hung to dry and Read More
Haidas have a special relationship with nature. We must show respect to all life forms. When gathering food, medicine or other materials, we must give thanks to the object and the Creator by singing a song or by saying a heart-felt thanks.

Haida women have a special relationship with the roots and bark that they gather for weaving.

"Cedar bark is said to be every woman’s elder sister." (Swanton, 1905b: 29)

Every person has her own way of showing gratitude to the trees and to the Creator. This is private and sacred knowledge.

Long strips of cedar are pulled from the trees. The dark outer bark is discarded. The remaining bark is wrapped in a bundle. The light bark is stripped into thin pieces to weave. Spruce roots, hlii.ng are more time consuming to harvest. Weavers go to the sandy area of Rose Spit or to moss-covered areas with spruce trees. After collecting the long spruce roots from under the sand, they are roasted on a fire to loosen the outer bark. Once the outer bark is peeled off, the roots are split in half.

The roots are split again until they are the desired thickness. The roots are hung to dry and then stored away until the weaver is ready to work on a project. The roots are then soaked in water to make them soft for weaving.

Haidas are known for our tightly woven baskets and hats. Spruce root baskets are twined with two to three active weft strands. Sometimes a weaver uses dyed strips to make patterns. Colours used to be made from things in nature. With modern technology, weavers can now use clothing dye. Geometric patterns like the "snail track" or the "strawberry" derive from nature.

If a weaver chooses to add a crest design, usually her husband or another male artist would paint the design onto the hat or basket.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

collage

Florence Davidson uses a big knife to strip the narrow cedar strips from the tree.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer
c. 1976
© Ulli Steltzer


Photo

Florence Davidson removes the outer bark since she will weave only the inner bark.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer
c. 1976
© Ulli Steltzer


Landscape

Aerial shot of Haida Gwaii Forest.

Photo: Michel Tremblay
c. 1999
© Michel Tremblay


Photo

Florence Davidson digs under the moss to find long spruce roots.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer

© Ulli Steltzer


Photo

Florence Davidson prepares her spruce roots.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer

© Ulli Steltzer


baskets

Collection of Haida baskets.

Photo: April Churchill
c. 1997
© April Churchill


Photo

Eliza Abrahams wove many hats for her family and for sale.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer
c. 1976
© Ulli Steltzer


Isabella Edenshaw wove every day. Her husband Charles painted her spruce root hats. She would sell her hats in Port Essington in order to buy clothes and other necessities for her family. Today many of her hats are in museums. A four-pointed red and black star on the crown of the hat easily identifies her hats.

Isabella’s great talent has been passed on to her descendants. Her daughters and granddaughters are contemporary artists who excel in weaving.
Isabella Edenshaw wove every day. Her husband Charles painted her spruce root hats. She would sell her hats in Port Essington in order to buy clothes and other necessities for her family. Today many of her hats are in museums. A four-pointed red and black star on the crown of the hat easily identifies her hats.

Isabella’s great talent has been passed on to her descendants. Her daughters and granddaughters are contemporary artists who excel in weaving.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Mat

Woven Spruce root mat with painted sea lion design, by Charles and Isabella Edenshaw, circa 1895.

Charles and Isabella Edenshaw,
U.B.C. Museum of Anthroplogy photo collection
c. 1895
A7203.
© U.B.C. Museum of Anthroplogy photo collection


Collage

1. Dawn Bell enjoys splitting yellow cedar bark. 2. Sharon Matthews holds up a mini basket. 3. Nellie Bell prepares her bark strips. 4. Winnie Smith helps weave baskets for Lucille Bell's wedding.

Photo: Lucille Bell

© Lucille Bell


There are many excellent contemporary Haida weavers. In the last four years over sixty new weavers have emerged. Children are even learning this tradition in school. This is a flourishing art that will continue into the new Millennium with weavers such as:

Andrea Bell Buster Bell Carol Bell Dorcas Bell Lucille Bell Christine Carty Carrie Carty April Davis-Churchill Deloris Churchill Donny Churchill Reg Davidson Sharleen Davidson Charlene Edgars Maxine Edgars Denise Thiessen Sandy Keddie Jerry Gagnon Leo Gagnon Virginia Hunter Marina Jones Florence Lockyer Elizabeth Moore Tracey Moore Patricia Moore Marie Olfield June Russ Alyssa Samuels Louise Smith Candace Weir Lena Washington Colleen Williams Blossom Wilson Lo Read More
There are many excellent contemporary Haida weavers. In the last four years over sixty new weavers have emerged. Children are even learning this tradition in school. This is a flourishing art that will continue into the new Millennium with weavers such as:

  • Andrea Bell
  • Buster Bell
  • Carol Bell
  • Dorcas Bell
  • Lucille Bell
  • Christine Carty
  • Carrie Carty
  • April Davis-Churchill
  • Deloris Churchill
  • Donny Churchill
  • Reg Davidson
  • Sharleen Davidson
  • Charlene Edgars
  • Maxine Edgars
  • Denise Thiessen
  • Sandy Keddie
  • Jerry Gagnon
  • Leo Gagnon
  • Virginia Hunter
  • Marina Jones
  • Florence Lockyer
  • Elizabeth Moore
  • Tracey Moore
  • Patricia Moore
  • Marie Olfield
  • June Russ
  • Alyssa Samuels
  • Louise Smith
  • Candace Weir
  • Lena Washington
  • Colleen Williams
  • Blossom Wilson
  • Lorraine York

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe traditional Haida weaving methods, including what plants are used, how they are harvested, and how they are treated
  • Name several Haida weavers, past and present

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans