Skidegate House Models
From Haida Gwaii to the Chicago World's Fair and Beyond
- PUBLISHED: February 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Native American and Indigenous Art, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Pacific Northwest / Art and Culture
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: Pages, 10 x 10 in, 83 color illus., 92 b&w illus., 2 maps, 6 charts
- SERIES: Native Art of the Pacific Northwest: A Bill Holm Center Series
- ISBN: 9780295751047
In 1892 seventeen Haida artists were commissioned to carve a model of HlGaagilda Llnagaay (the village of Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia) for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The Skidegate model, featuring twenty-nine large houses and forty-two poles, is the only known model village in North America carved by nineteenth-century Indigenous residents of the village it portrayed. Based on over twenty years of collaborative research with the Skidegate Haida community, the book features vital cultural context. Robin K. Wright explores how Haida people represented their culture to the outside world at a time when they were suffering from devastating population loss due to introduced diseases and from ongoing attempts by the settler government to suppress their culture by making the potlatch illegal. While promoters of the Chicago World’s Fair used the village to celebrate the perceived “progress” of the dominant society, for Skidegate residents it provided a means to preserve their history and culture. After the exposition, many models were dispersed to the Field Museum of Natural History and other collections, but fourteen of the model houses have not yet been located. The book provides extensive archival information and photographs that contextualize the model village and might help locate the missing houses. Wright’s community-engaged research offers valuable insights into Northwest Coast art history.
Authors & Contributors
Robin K. Wright is professor emerita of art history at the University of Washington, Seattle, and curator emerita of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Her award-winning books include A Time of Gathering and Northern Haida Master Carvers. Recent books include In the Spirit of the Ancestors (coedited with Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse) and Charles Edenshaw (coedited with Diana Augaitis).
This publication is an exceptional example of Wright’s knowledge of Haida art and scholarly skills. Incorporating what it means to be Haida today, this is the finest example I know of a cultural biography: meticulous historical scholarship, detailed analytic art history, and productive collaboration with inheritors of this heritage that brings this fascinating story into the present—and the future.- Aldona Jonaitis, Director Emerita, University of Alaska Museum of the North
This meticulous work of dedicated art historical research and community collaboration beautifully illustrates how careful redocumentation of museum collections can open out into wide worlds of historiography, colonial entanglement, and the endurance of Indigenous artistry, kinship, and language.- Aaron Glass, Bard Graduate Center