Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe

Guide to Indigenous DC

Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe

Washington, District of Columbia 20016, United States

Created By: Dr. Elizabeth Rule - The Guide To Indigenous Lands Project


Internationally-acclaimed Canadian artist Bill Reid (Haida) began work on The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe in 1985. The piece was donated to the Government of Canada and installed at the Canadian embassy in 1991. Haida Gwaii refers to the archipelago community also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands: the location of Haida heritage sites and homelands. Weighing 5.5-tons, the bronze sculpture with black patina depicts a crew of characters from Haida stories and spirituality journeying together in a traditional cedar cutout canoe.

Thirteen figures are present in the canoe: the Bear, Bear Mother, Good Bear, and Bad Bear family; the magical and mysterious Dogfish Woman; the elusive Mouse Woman; the traditional Raven trickster figure; the resilient Ancient Reluctant Conscript; the Beaver, Raven's hardworking uncle; the imaginary but ever-important Wolf; the proud Eagle, the Frog which, like the Haida, navigates the land and sea; and the central human figure, the Haida Kilstlaai (chief/shaman.)

A counterpart sculpture, contrasted by its emerald green patina finishing, was commissioned by the Vancouver International Airport in 1994. The Spirit of Haida Gwaii is regarded as Reid's largest and most complex sculpture.

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This point of interest is part of the tour: Guide to Indigenous DC


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