MUSEUM OF VANCOUVER, VANCOUVER BC – To June 15, 2019
By Graham Richard
Crowds packed into the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) to witness the opening of Haida Now at c̓əsnaʔəm Kits Point March 15. Many of the exhibition’s 450 objects re-emerged from over a century in storage. Haida mastery is on full display through masks, statues, fishing implements, hunting tools, serving and eating utensils, ornately carved bentwood boxes, dishes, old stone mortars and pestles. These ancestral objects connect with modern photos and videos of Haida people today. The excellence exhibited in both classic and modern mediums shows the resilience of Haida discipline, dignity and power.
Those assembled recognized legal protocols as members of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations spoke, danced and sang to welcome guests to their territory and to recognize the exhibit opening. Haida responded with songs and dances in honour of their hosts. This opening ceremony represented Indigenous triumph over systemic oppression, disenfranchisement and genocide.
Speeches followed by Exhibition Curator Kwiaahwah Jones; Co-curator Viviane Gosselin; Saahlinda Naay Haida Gwaii Museum Director Jisgang; Haida Hereditary Leader Skil Hiilans Allan Davidson; President of the Haida Nation kil tlaats‘gaa Peter Lantin; former President of the Haida Nation Kilsli Kaji Sting Miles Richardson Jr. coastal relatives; representatives of MOV; and local elected officials.
“Haida Now is an opportunity to get a glimpse of the depth and breadth of this land’s history before Canada existed, and the living legacy of the Haida Nation,” explained Kwiaahwah Jones. A rich display of long-hidden treasures awaits museum visitors.
Argillite carvings tower in a centrepiece that seems to overflow. Crowded bracelets, labrets and collars vie for space in display cases. Intricate robes, baskets and masks show the source of modern Haida weavers’ mastery and creativity. Visitors who grow overwhelmed in the flood of beautiful objects can rest in the “living room”, a corner designed to feel like a Haida home.
Visitors can see the Haida people of today through music videos, clips from the upcoming full-length Haida-language feature film S,Gaawaay K’uuna Edge of the Knife and short documentaries. The old treasures and modern creations of Haida Now show how the current generation endures to uphold the legacy of Haida ancestors.
Haida Now is presented at the Museum of Vancouver in partnership with the Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay.