Nothing on Earth compares to the great Northwest Coast totem poles and clan houses that populate Haa Aaní—Our Land—or to the intricate Chilkat and Ravenstail woven robes that can take years to complete. One could spend a lifetime mastering the rules governing the formline designs that make the material culture of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian so unique.
Historically, collectors across the world have sought our clan at.óowu—a term that includes immaterial culture, such as clan songs and dances, and material pieces, such as regalia and other objects that are used in ceremonies. Collectors, including missionaries who tried in vain to crush Native cultures, sought out and acquired our at.óowu, often in unscrupulous ways. A traditional scholar famously described it this way: “They collected our ‘sins’.”
Our ancient art practices nearly went extinct during years of cultural oppression, but some artists continued to make Northwest Coast art and clan at.óowu, keeping the knowledge alive. In recent times, Native cultures have rebounded quite forcefully, and Native people now more than ever are learning our ancient art practices.
Sealaska Heritage is committed to maintaining the integrity of Northwest Coast art and operates programs to teach formline, carving, weaving, and other practices. This is also why we sponsored our first biennial Juried Art Show and Competition in 2002—to encourage artists to reach the highest standards achieved by our ancestors.
We have a dream to make Juneau the Northwest Coast art capital of the world, and to showcase Native art and artists on a scale that has not been done before. Northwest Coast art is prized by collectors worldwide and was sought throughout the ages as a distinctive and unique form of art. Our ancestors’ legacy lives on today, and it should be considered a national treasure. What an honor it is to claim that legacy, to help pass it on to future generations!
Welcome to the exhibition!
Dr. Rosita Worl, President, Sealaska Heritage Institute