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We Haida were surrounded by art. Art was one with culture. Art was our only recorded language.Throughout our history, it has been the art that has kept our spirits alive" .

Robert Davidson, t’saalth laanaas clan.

The Haida are an indigenous people of the west coast of North America. The history and culture dates back over 15,000 years ago. Although there is no word for Art in their language, Art is integrated into the fabric of community life and sustained by the special resources of Haida Gwaii: cedar to carve poles, canoes and masks; cedar bark and spruce roots to make hats; and shells to adorn button blankets and masks. The Haida have strong values and beliefs in their position as "original guardians" of their homeland that was given to them by the "Creator" as a blessing to be cared for and not wasted.

The ocean is a profound source of inspiration for their art. Many of the creatures found on family crest poles and other carved objects are drawn from the ocean. Killer whales, sea lions, halibut, sharks and supernatural beings such as the Sea-wolf are some of these beings of the sea that Haida artists depict.

The Haida canon of oral histories and archaeological findings agree that Haida ancestors lived alongside glaciers and were present at the time of the arrival of the first tree, a lodgepole pine, on Haida Gwaii.For thousands of years since Haida have participated in a rigorous coast-wide legal system called Potlatch. After the Island's wide arrival of red cedar some 7,500 years ago Haida society transformed to center around the coastal "tree of life". Massive carved cedar monuments and cedar big houses became widespread throughout Haida Gwaii.

In the Pacific Northwest, the living native culture of master carvers and artists are working today . Haida art is recognized around the world for its monumental totem poles and sculptures; fine carvings and weaving. Over thousands of years, Haida artists have developed a style of design, which they apply to both sculptural forms and two-dimensional art. It is this style of distinctive line and the use of recurring design elements that distinguishes Haida art. About seventy-five Haida artists are currently working in the Haida art tradition both at home, on Haida Gwaii, and in Canadian west-coast cities, such as Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert. In addition to several galleries in Vancouver, large collections of Haida Art can be seen at, The Bill Reid Center in Vancouver, UBC Museum of Anthropology ,Stanley Park in Vancouver and The Museum of Natural History, in Victoria , BC. Haida village sites line the shores of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, and the National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 owing to its globally significant cultural heritage.

 Week One: Cave Paintings

It has been an eventful week in our Art Literacy class. We have been all around the world.  I would like to thank all of my wonderful students for their great efforts. We began with the story of the discovery of the discovery of cave paintings in Lascaux,  France  and also looked at images from  Spain , where the oldest known cave paintings have been found,  in the cave called El Castillo. The prehistoric dots and crimson hand stencils are now the world's oldest known cave art that dates more than 40,800 years old.

© Serene Greene- Art Literacy Academy
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