English & Haida
Haida Culture & Family
Sara Florence Davidson, Robert Davidson, Janine Gibbons
Today I have a pair of books for you by the same trio of creators, and they’re based on author artist Robert Davidson’s memories of learning Haida culture and traditions. Robert’s daughter Sara spoke at length with him about his childhood, and Sara created these stories based on his memories. This furthers the chain of intergenerational knowledge and learning, as well as oral storytelling.
Jigging for Halibut is a calm and thoughtful story about Robert and his tsinii going out on their small rowboat to catch some fish. This gentle story is not so much about how to jig for halibut, but the peaceful time spent out on the water with an Elder. They share a meal, a joke, and hopefully that evening they’ll share some halibut stew!
Learning to Carve Argillite is along the same lines, a celebration of sharing knowledge with younger generations. Young Robert is working his hardest to carve a pole out of argililte, a slate rock that he got from a special mountain with his father the year before. Robert works whenever he has the chance and is proud of his work, thinking it’s his best work yet but his tsinii disagrees.
At the heart of both of these stories is the ongoing learning and perfecting of cultural practices, as well as the importance of learning from community Elders. The stories are moments in time. There’s nothing to overcome, no solution needed to neatly wrap up before the end of the book. I feel privileged that I can read about these special moments between Robert and his Haida community, which I have never experienced before.
These were both sent by Highwater Press and contenders for the #Bookstagang_BestOf2021 list! All opinions are my own.
Sara Florence Davidson (she/her/hers) is a Haida/Settler Assistant Professor in Indigenous Education in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Previously, she was an educator working with adolescents in the K-12 system in British Columbia and Yukon Territory. Sara is the co-author of Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning through Ceremony, which she wrote with her father, along with the accompanying Sk’ad’a Stories series of children’s picture books. She also co-wrote Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii with her stepmother, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson.
When she is not reading or writing, Sara can be found walking with her dog, drinking tea, or listening to stories and learning something new.
Robert Davidson is one of the most respected and important contemporary artists in Canada. A Northwest Coast native of Haida descent, he is a master carver of totem poles and masks and works in a variety of other media as a printmaker, painter, and jeweller. A leading figure in the renaissance of Haida art and culture, Robert is best known as an impeccable craftsman whose creative and personal interpretation of traditional Haida form is unparalleled.
Janine Gibbons, a Haida Raven of the Double-Fin Killer Whale Clan, Brown Bear House, is a multi-disciplinary artist and award-winning illustrator. Janine’s works are inspired by the waters and lands of the Pacific Northwest, and their myriad colours, energies, and languages. “Like the burning of dried cedar branches,” says Janine, “I try to ignite sparks of connection through my creations.”
Janine graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle and Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Janine has illustrated three books in the Sealaska Heritage’s Baby Raven Reads series, including Raven Makes the Aleutians, an AILA Honor Book.