Haida Master Weavers, A program of the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild

Hat Photo credit: Spruce-root hat by Delores Churchill. (Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

The public is invited to a program with Haida master weaver Delores Churchill and her daughter Evelyn Vanderhoop, a master textile weaver.

Churchill, who received a National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, will present “Basketry to Ravenstail,” a retrospective of her work.

Vanderhoop, chosen to be an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., will discuss Raven’s Tail and Naaxiin (Chilkat) weaving.

The program is Thursday, October 18, 7 p.m., at the Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland. The free presentation ($5 donation suggested) is sponsored by the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild.

Preserving Native Weaving Techniques

Churchill, a Haida elder from Ketchikan, Alaska, has devoted much of her life to mastering the art of weaving and to preserving her cultural heritage. She weaves baskets, hats, robes, and other regalia. Using such materials as spruce root, cedar bark, wool, and natural dyes, she creates utilitarian and ceremonial objects of unmatched beauty and cultural significance. She also has worked to preserve the Haida language.

In 2017 Churchill completed a replica of a spruce root hat found with ancient remains in 1999 in a British Columbia park. The original hat was discovered in a melting glacier by three hunters in a British Columbia park. Mummified human remains were found with it, and a helicopter was sent to retrieve the remains and artifacts. Churchill says when she heard about the hat, she wanted to learn more. She was granted permission to study the hat and discovered, though mostly of Tlingit design, a variety of weaving techniques were used.

“Haidas weave counterclockwise and Tlingit weave clockwise. But there’s an area down near the edge of the hat where there are two rows that are going counterclockwise. So whoever did this hat knew both Haida and Tlingit techniques,” Churchill says.

Raven’s Tail and Naaxiin Robes

Vanderhoop specializes in weaving the chief’s robe of the Haida people. She teaches and weaves Raven’s Tail (northern geometric weaving) and Naaxiin (Chilkat). She has done extensive research into the history of northern coast robes. Vanderhoop has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Western Washington University and has had successful parallel careers as a weaver and watercolor artist. She studied watercolor painting in Europe, and one of her paintings was chosen by the United States Postal Service for a stamp to commemorate Native American dance. She comes from a long line of Haida weavers, including her grandmother Selina Peratrovich and her mother, Delores Churchill. She has also studied weaving with Cheryl Samuel.

Churchill learned her weaving from her mother, Selina Peratrovich, a nationally recognized master weaver. Peratrovich asked her daughter to burn her baskets for the first five years of the apprenticeship. “I am well known for my baskets,” Peratrovich told her daughter. “If you say you learned from me, you better be good.”

Churchill went on to study traditional Tsimshian weaving from masters Flora Matthew and Brenda White.  Churchill further studied at the British Museum and learned six-strand weave. After retiring from a bookkeeping career and raising her family, Churchill turned her attention back to basketry at a time when Haida basket weaving was in serious decline as an art form.

She continues to teach young people the knowledge and skills related to the weaving tradition, observing: “As long as Native art remains in museums, it will be thought of in the past tense.”

For more information, contact ColumbiaBasinBasketryGuild@gmail.com

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