In the Classroom

Lesson Plans

Bill Reid: Exploring Identity

Activity One: Introduction and Assessment

Step One: Brief introduction

Brainstorm as a class the different ways in which one's culture and family of origin remember, honour and celebrate important individuals in their community. Discuss the many ways in which group identity develops and how it defines and creates communities. Ask students to keep this in mind as they learn about the Haida culture and the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Introduce a photo of the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole,” designed and carved by James Hart of Haida Gwaii. Provide a brief introduction to Bill Reid, James Hart of Haida Gwaii, and the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Step Two: A debt of gratitude

Play Audio: “A Debt of Gratitude” (2:07)
James Hart speaks about what Bill Reid means to him personally and to his Haida community.

Audio transcript

Hi I’m Jim Hart. I’d like to chat about the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.” It’s a pole in celebration of Bill’s life, and it was made for the Bill Reid Gallery. Why I got involved was I believe that we as Haida people owe Bill a big debt of gratitude for the work that he had done in the past for bringing us forward in the limelight.

At home we had people working on art but not in the outside world and as Bill was quite familiar with the outside world and how it all works he was a real champion on keeping himself and the Haida people in the world’s view, and that’s what we owe Bill for. And he’s left a great legacy for us. So I really believe that the work he had done not just for himself was also for Haida folks so I myself use his work as study pieces and I know that future generations are going to do this from now on into the millennium.

So I’m kind of excited about my piece here, the pole which stands twenty-two foot, just over seven meters tall, and having all his family crests on there – his mother’s crest, his crest, Bill’s crest which is Wasgo, the Wolf in between the ears and one ear is a Thunderbird and the other ear is a Killer Whale. And then you have the Copper, which is a Wolf crest and then on the very top will be the Raven, which is Bill, I’m calling it Bill. And being Bill, being the Raven, he was the Trickster, and that’s how he conducted himself, with that little edge to himself.

Anyway I met him in 1980, Bill, and he saved my life in a sense, you know he taught me a lot of stuff, so I really appreciate that.

Step Three: Fill out “I Know/I Wonder” worksheet

Ask the students to think about what they 'know and wonder' about Bill Reid. Hand out the “I Know/I Wonder” worksheet. Explain to the students that the topic of inquiry is Bill Reid’s life. Ask them to write down what they know and wonder about Bill Reid. This worksheet will become an assessment tool at the end of the lesson.

Activity Two: A Closer Look at Bill Reid

Step One: Bill Reid’s biography

Explore Bill Reid’s life and work using the print and audiovisual resources listed and the biographical and gallery components of the virtual exhibition.

Have students read (alone, in groups, or as a class) about Bill Reid’s life and work.

Step Two: Quotes about Bill Reid

Bill Reid forged his own identity over a period of more than fifty years as an active artist, combining deep study and mastery of traditional European jewelry-making techniques and traditional Haida art. He created unique works that honoured these traditions yet pushed the boundaries of both into new territory.

Following are a number of quotes written by others about Bill Reid’s life and work.

In groups of four, have students read the quotes to each other and discuss each quote, what the writer meant by it and each quote's significance in terms of Bill Reid’s own identity and the identity of the Haida.

Then assign one quote to each group to summarize in their own words and present to the class, or ask students to write a general summary of one or more quotes. Encourage the students to share and then personalize what they have learned, with reference to Bill Reid’s journey of identity.

A sample summary in brackets follows each quote.

“Bill Reid’s role in the restoration of west coast art may be described as a process of self-discovery, of finding his own creative center in the roots of tradition, and of growing and developing outward from that cultural core.”

Joan Vastokas, “Bill Reid and the Native Renaissance,” ArtsCanada, Numbers 198/199 (June 1975). p.18.

(As Bill Reid discovered more about West Coast art, he also discovered more about himself.)

“The art of Bill Reid is the art of the Northwest Coast with something extra – a new element! While remaining completely faithful to its roots, Reid’s art is deeply infused with the personality of its creator. This is what makes his sculptures so easily recognizable and, above all, worthy of a place on the world stage.”

Claude Lévi-Strauss, quoted in “Bill Reid ou la renaissance de l’art Haida,” by Martine Reid and Muriel Tohme, Geo Magazine, no.229, (March 1998), p.49.

(Bill Reid combined his own personal style and ideas with traditional art.)

“His work challenges the popular notion that the essence of art lies in the quest for the new, the innovative, the avant-garde.”

Michael Ames, in the foreword to Karen Duffek, Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

(Bill Reid created fine art that defied current taste for the avant-garde.)

“The goldsmithing techniques he commands have enabled him to push beyond the possibilities known to past masters. Through repoussé, casting, soldering, and silver overlay, Reid has extended Northwest Coast jewellery into three dimensions. Past technology only allowed shallow engraving of designs on the metal’s surface.”

Karen Duffek, Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986, p.13.

(Bill Reid combined new techniques with traditional Haida art.)

“Bill found the dry bones of a great art and – shamanlike – shook off the layers of museum dust and brought it back to life.”

Bill Holm, from the catalogue for “Bill Reid: A Retrospective Exhibition,” Vancouver Art Gallery, 1974.

(Bill Reid discovered traditional Haida art and brought it to the attention of the world.)

“Reid is considered to have carried Haida design an important step further by carving entirely free sculptures that retain the conventional Haida forms. In freeing his bird from the vertical totem, Reid himself appears to have shaken off some of the constraints that bound him to the past.”

Edith Iglauer, “The Myth Maker,” Saturday Night, Vol.27, no.2, (February 1982), p.22.

(Bill Reid added a third dimension to Haida forms.)

“If the Raven created the Haida nation in the beginning, it is said, Reid has recreated it in the 20th Century. Reid’s revival of traditional Haida art, an accomplishment remarkable enough in itself, was a pebble in the pool, engendering widening circles of consequence. The renaissance in their art fostered a revitalization of their culture in general and contributed to the discovery of a new political will among the Haida of the Queen Charlottes.”

Richard Wright, “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: La renaissance de l’art haida,” En route, March 1991, p.88.

(Bill Reid influenced social and political issues of concern to the Haida.)

“His vision has young people taking pride in the true accomplishments of their forbears and emulating them in new ways, so that native people can claim their place in the wider world while remaining distinctively Haida.”

Karen Duffek, Bill Reid: Beyond the Essential Form. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Pres, 1986, p.26.

(Bill Reid inspired confidence in young people.)

Have students summarize what they understand about Bill Reid in their own “quotable quote” of two or three sentences.

Activity Three: Totems and Traditions

Step One: About totem poles

Describe the history and role of the totem pole to students. Refer to print resources by Halpin (1981), Kramer (1995), MacDonald (1983) and Stewart (1979 and 2004).

CBC Digital Archives Website
Play audio: Carvers of the Totem Poles. CBC Radio Special, 1957. (14:17)

Play audio: Totem Poles (0:28)

Audio transcript

Well, these figures are all very important. To us, totem poles are a very important thing in our history, our people’s history, because it shows who you are, where you come from, your history, your family, your clan, and are very important when you’re dealing with all these Supernaturals and other tribes, and other tribes within the nation.

Step Two: Carrying on the tradition

Discuss the significance of the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole” and why James Hart of Haida Gwaii created it.

Play audio: Carrying on the Tradition (5:28)
James Hart speaks about being a carver and keeping the Haida traditions alive.

Audio transcript

Hi, my name is James Hart, Jim Hart, or my Haida name, Edensu. Edensu is a name that was given to me in 1999. My uncle Morris White passed on Edensu, the name Edensu to me. He is my uncle, I am his nephew, and the way it works for us, with the name also the position of being the Chief of our clan, the Songostasus clan, and with that, taking on a name you take on the position of being Chief, life changes. You have to be kind of careful of how you joke around and all this stuff, because people now refer to you as a Chief and they watch every move you make in a sense.

And so, what I do, I carve -- I like to say wonderful -- pieces, in the Haida tradition, and to me that’s very important because, and especially with the word “tradition,” I’m trying to keep our traditions alive, and the meaning behind our pieces alive, and well that’s the strength of our art you know, it is all made for a reason. And especially in the old days when they developed our art and our art form, you had to be born into the rights to carve. Then not only did you have to be born into the rights to be able to carve you had to also have talents. And my old relatives they had the talents, and they developed it, and I’m starting to feel like it was in the genes, you know what I mean? When I was born it was already in my system and I just pursued it.

When I discovered we had an art form in high school, I discovered we had an art form and a culture, I was just so excited I couldn’t stop bubbling over. I was walking around kind of a high for three days. That was just a new life for me now, because I was looking at art and trying to figure out a style for myself. As soon as I figured we had a Haida art and a culture, boy I was focused and zeroed right in and started studying our people more and listening to our stories. It was really nice to connect with my old relatives and start my journey of learning about who we were and how to carve. So taking up the tools also. I’ve always had an interest in carving but to realize that carving was one of our ways, and later on in life I realized it was an extension of who I was, you know. So I really enjoyed the process.

You know I’ve been doing it seriously since 1979. This is what I’ve decided to do for the rest of my life – carving work – and in the 1980s when I ran into Bill Reid he asked me if I wanted to work for him, carving on “The Raven and the First Men,” and I said, “Sure!” After I looked at it I wanted to work for him. I loved his work. It has nice motion, and nice pieces so he taught me lots and I worked for him for four years before I had to run off and do my own work.

But I still learn from him by studying his pieces. You know I know the technique but then you learn about different artists by looking at their pieces, what they brought forth into this world and how they did that, you know you can figure stuff like that out.

So, anyway carving is a really important thing to me in my life

So, with the artwork like I feel like I’ve just started. Every time I look at it I feel like a young kid because there’s so much to it that it feels like I’ve just begun, all the time even though I’ve been doing it seriously since 1979, and we’re always learning new stuff, so never ending, never ending.

And I really do value the respect for our ancestors and our art form, and where we come from and who we are. You know it all comes through our art and all that and the history behind it all, our stories, our clans, it’s just amazing when you start getting into it and you realize what it’s all about. That’s why I feel like I just started all the time. There’s just so much to do. I mean Bill took it to a certain level in the metal, jewelry you know and gold, making boxes and repoussé and inlays and such and that’s really, that’s another section. Now we’re in bronze, and some day I will be starting on a big stone you know like we’re doing concrete. It’s really expanding, but again, respect is the bottom line here.

And I’m happy to be part of this and to have bumped into Bill Reid especially. He was a champion for me when I was younger and I knew about him and kept an eye on what he was up to and so he was a real mentor for a lot of years for me.

Play audio: “You’re a Haida” (1:00)
James Hart speaks about Bill Reid’s identity and legacy.

Audio transcript

And we were, as Haida people, very proud of him because he was down here in the city holding the Haida people up in everyone’s eyes, you know. So it was good for us, as a people. And Bill slowly got into art, you know the Haida art, and he started understanding what it was about, and he got involved in jewelry and wood carving, and he worked at UBC Museum of Anthropology. But along the way he was thinking about himself and his identity and how he related to Haidas and that, and once you’re a Haida you’re a Haida, there is no getting away from it. So if someone says, “No, you’re not a Haida,” that’s not right, you know they don’t have the right to say that because Bill is Haida. I told him once that he should never worry about that because he’s Haida, never to think about it again in a sense, just carry on with his life, as we as Haidas watch him all the time. We were watching him, we’re still watching him, we’re still using his stuff to study.

Play audio: Bill Reid’s Legacy (0:51)

Audio transcript

And how I feel about Bill, Bill is a guy that keeps on teaching, you know, and we owe him a lot for what he did for our people, as a Haida person, and what he unravelled for us, and all his work that he did for our people today and into the future. He brought a lot of recognition to us and that wasn’t an easy thing in his day, and Bill was one of the forefront leaders in that area, down here in the city and working with others to bring some attention to the greatness of our art, here, right here on the coast of BC you know, and up into Alaska. So we didn’t have to go over to Europe to see greatness, we had it right here on our doorstep.

Follow-up discussion question: Ask students how traditions are carried on in their own families. Have students write down their reflections and invite them to share their experiences.

Activity Four: Haida Crests and Identity

Step One: About Haida crests and identity

Familiarize students with the importance and variety of traditional crests symbolizing family beginnings, history and lineage. In the Haida culture, you are born into your the identity of your mother's clan, but you can add to it if you are powerful enough. Each figure or crest has a history to it and represents the story of an individual or family.

Play audio: “It’s Who We Are” (1:30)
James Hart speaks about family history and identity.

Audio transcript

You know you’re born into a crest. You’re born from a mother of course and your mother is the one that gives you all the stuff you own so everything follows her and we follow the female side of the family. And whatever your mother owns, you own automatically. That’s who you are. And so crests were developed through the ages for some reason or another. Every figure that we have, crest figures, they all have a great story and they’re all validated as a crest figure. The person that owns it would have to validate that somehow and so it depends on… you can earn another one, you can actually earn another one today but what happens is you’ve got to have a great potlatch for it and pay people to come and witness the whole event and you validate that new crest figure and then from that point on you and your family – maybe just you and maybe you’ll let your family clan members use it, family clan members – and so the crest figures were really important to us, they were who we were. And the history behind it is also very important. And so we’re an oral history type of people, telling our stories and carrying on with our deeds in a sense, and keeping it alive. So it’s our identity. It’s who we are.

Play audio: “Proving We’re Human Beings” (4:23)
James Hart speaks about environment and identity.

Audio transcript

You know one time Bill Reid said to me that if you look at our villages, and where they are situated, they’re always situated in a nice spot for food gathering, and food, since we’re ocean people, water people, most of our foods come from the ocean. We did grow a few things and gathered a few things from the woods, you know, berries and things like that, but mostly from the ocean. And if you look at the old village scenes, you’ll see how the canoes are on the beach, the houses are just up over the lip of the beach, and the totem poles are there in between the house and the water, and we actually just took up a little strip along the way.

When you’re living like that, you really do sing and dance and create a lot of kind of noise just to prove that we’re human beings. And this is what Bill told me. We were proving that we were human beings when we were singing and dancing. It took a while to figure that one out. Now I see it and of course we’re living in the supernatural world, and the great oceans, and what’s going on in the oceans, and what’s going on in the woods behind us, and the mountains, so it was really quite intimidating in a sense so we really had to sing and dance to prove to each other that we are human beings and our status amongst ourselves and who we were and our totem poles were depicting who we were.

You didn’t want to want to be a commoner that’s for sure and if you were in the hierarchy side of life then life was a lot better for you and you had a voice.

So that was all pretty important to us, and carried forward potlatches that proved who we were as a people, and our history, where we stood in history, and all these things, so all very important. And we would start battles over something that was claimed that wasn’t right, especially if they were encroaching onto your territory or prerogative so those things were earned and jealously guarded by yourself and your people, meaning your clans you know.

Through my history, Shongalth-Staastaas people were Eagle people from the north end of the islands. We worked with another group, the Raven side, Yahgulanaas, and that was who we intermarried with mostly. Well that’s historic, that’s history. So when you start putting your totem poles forward, or your crests forward, you’re showing your connections to each other. So really, really quite important who we were. You never wore anyone else’s crest. Never. You never even thought of that. If you brought on a new crest you really had to work hard to bring that forward into the public eye so that they would accept it as yours. So you would have to potlatch it big time and also pay for it by paying people to witness the event. So it was really important stuff. Very important stuff. It was never taken lightly.

So we used to tattoo our crests on our arms, our chests, our backs, our legs, our hands, you know…our faces, just showing you we really thought quite a bit about our self identity. And then Haidas were quite proud on top of that. We were quite proud of who we were, our art and our prowess you know, we were strong people. We used to go to the mainland and capture people for slaves and we also captured each other for slaves. Again identity was mixed in with that. If you were from a family that had one of the family members taken as a slave, your whole identity, your status would drop and you’d have to spend a lot of time bringing your status back up again, even though it wasn’t your fault. That’s just the way it was. Pretty tough in the old days.

Step Two: About the crests on the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole”

Play audio: Celebration Pole Crests (1:00) and show image of “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”
James Hart speaks about the meaning of the crests on the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Audio transcript

The Wasgo figure is the big figure on the bottom, and it’s holding up all the rest in a sense. And in the Wasgo’s right ear you have the Thunderbird looking out and in his left ear you have the Killer Whale looking out, and then between the ears you have a Wolf looking out of his cave. That’s what the significance of the kind of oval shape around his head is – it’s representing a cave. And these are all figures, crest figures of Bill’s. And of course on the very top we’ll have the Raven, and that’s the crowning piece in a sense, of the pole. And the Raven, Bill considered himself as the Raven, and the trickster, and all this kind of stuff, and as an Eagle, and working for Bill, I’d watch him in operation. But he didn’t have to go that far in the Raven way of things, but he did, and that’s what made Bill.

Play audio: Celebration Pole Copper (2:22)
James Hart speaks about the value of Coppers and the meaning of the Copper on the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Audio transcript

My son and I, GwaLiga, hammered it out – cut it out, hammered it out, planned it all out first, laid it out onto the copper sheet and cut it out and then the two of us worked on hammering it out into the shape that you see on there. It has a wonderful shape, it’s an old historic shape, and you have the “T” in the centre and then you have the crest figure on the top panel and then you have some bars on the bottom two panels. And the crest figure on the top represents a Wolf crest and that comes from the mainland, and that’s the tie the Tanu people had with the people from the mainland.

So Coppers are a very valuable thing to us as Haida people especially. They were valuable, they were wealth, it was like a banking system, they were important. The more important they are the more prestige, the more wealth you had in the piece itself. They could be worth so many canoes, so many slaves, all kinds of things. And they’d have a name, and the name would be such that we would speak about it on our important occasions, like the potlatch. We would bring the Copper out, tell its name, talk about the Copper as a living thing. It was like an entity living you know right there beside you, and that would give it prestige. The Copper then would carry that prestige of another potlatch into its history and increase the value of the piece itself.

So they were very important and we used them in different ways. We didn’t use them as a shield. We sometimes call them shields but they’re not shields per se as to the Europeans who use them for defence, a defensive mechanism. They were just a shape. The old ones were so valuable because it took a lot of work to make them into this sheet with this special shape to it and a very important shape.

Bill was an important person to us and I’m thinking with the Copper up there it helps us with the thoughts we have towards Bill and what he had done. So it just makes Bill in my eyes more important, you know and that’s how we feel about him.

Play audio: The Copper Design (0:32)
James Hart speaks about the meaning of the Copper design.

Audio transcript

The Copper again has a Wolf crest figure on it and on the bottom panels you’ll see like three stripes on each side of the “T,” the centre strip and the “T,” and that’s also representing the ribs. If you look carefully at the Wolf design you’ll see that Wolf head, the teeth, the tongue, but you’ll also see the tail coming up the centre, and then you’ll see the paws of the Wolf on either side.

To review, ask students to locate the following crests (described by James Hart), on the pole:

  • Wasgo: “A mythical creature, half Wolf and half Killer Whale.”
  • Thunderbird: “Another of Bill Reid’s crests. Thunderbird blinked to make lightning, and ruffled his wings to create thunder.”
  • Killer Whale: “Another of Bill Reid’s crests. This one is in human form with a dorsal fin extending. (Killer Whales take their human outfits off when they go down to their underwater village.)”
  • Wolf: “Obtained from a tribe on the mainland. Also Bill Reid’s crest. There is a Wolf on the Copper, and another Wolf looking out from his cave.”
  • Raven: “Trickster, shapeshifter, and cultural hero. Raven created mankind, the sun, moon and stars, put Salmon in the rivers and gave the Haida fresh water. Raven was Bill Reid’s crest.”
  • Copper: “A symbol of wealth, respect and prestige, used as a form of currency. Some Coppers have their own name and identity. This Copper has a Wolf crest on it. The black stripes are ribs.”

Activity Five: Expressing Identity: Style, Materials, and Design

Step One: Style

There are many other examples of traditional Haida crests such as Eagle, Beaver, Hummingbird, Frog, and Bear. In 1909, an anthropologist named John Reed Swanton identified over 65 Haida crests, and since then, many more crests have been created and validated. Each one expresses something about the family it represents and the artist who creates it.

James Hart chose to carve the Wasgo, Thunderbird, Killer Whale, Wolf and Raven crests on the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole” because they were significant to Bill Reid, and representative of Bill Reid’s identity. He also chose what kind of style to use as a further recognition and celebration of Bill Reid’s identity.

Play audio: Style (1:23)
James Hart speaks about representing the styles of both his grandfather, Charles Edenshaw, and Bill Reid.

Audio transcript

The style I’ve used on this pole, this project, I thought of Bill, and I thought of my old Chinny Edenshaw, my old Grandfather, Charles Edenshaw, because Bill really respected Charlie and the work that Charles had done. He was really, really holding him up high and he used to talk about him all the time. He had a special word for him.

Anyway so I thought about the design for the pole thinking of the two men, and so I brought Bill’s style into it meaning that he liked his work being pretty lively and a lot of things going on so I put in all this detailing in the arms and legs and everywhere, thinking of Bill there, and then also bringing in elements of Chinny Charlie’s design work into it too because Bill held him up like a champion, and really thought highly of his work so I tried to put the two together in a sense to show that. And it was a lot of fun actually working it all out and thinking it out in that direction.

Step Two: Materials

James Hart speaks about the characteristics of red cedar used for the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Before playing the audio clip, have students consider what materials were used to build their school. Ask students why these materials were chosen. Some possible responses might be: materials were readily available, durable, strong, look good, etc. Tell students that the clip explains why James Hart chose red cedar for the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole.”

Play audio: Materials (1:19)

Audio transcript

The wood that we used for this project is red cedar. It comes from Haida Gwaii, and there’s actually three different trees involved in this project, this totem pole. The main big part comes from Skidegate, which was Yakoun Valley I think, and then there’s this slab for the two fins and the tail in the back of Wasgo and that comes from another tree, also from Yakoun Valley, and then the Raven comes from another tree, and that also comes from Yakoun Valley. And all these trees were over 500 years old, so these are partial parts of the tree, and very lucky to have these pieces, what we call ‘old growth’ red cedar.

Well, the wood itself is very special to us because it withstands the pressure of time, you know as an old totem pole, or a house, or a canoe or whatever we’re using it for, which we did use a lot, the red cedar for a lot of things in our lives and it actually saves our lives. The red cedar withstands the pressure of moisture, time, you know it will last the longest out of any wood, when we’re in a very moist environment up on the islands.

Step Three: Design

Human and animal figures in Haida art are stylized representations of natural or supernatural creatures. They can often be identified by their characteristic features, such as the Beaver’s large teeth, Raven’s straight beak or Thunderbird’s ears. Sometimes they are abstract and disjointed, and sometimes elements of more than one figure are combined in the same space.

Northwest Coast artists traditionally use the design elements of formline, ovoids and u-shapes. These elements are discussed extensively and definitively in Holm (1998).

Play audio: Design and Environment (1:04)
James Hart speaks about design elements inspired by the Northwest coast environment.

Audio transcript

The weather, the weather we’re dealing with a lot makes you pretty darn hardy. And then you see our colour combination – red and black’s our main colour, and then we bring in this kind of a turquoise-blue, sky-blue kind of thing, comes from our clay in the Naden River bank kind of thing, and it’s an amazing dye. But that’s our… and with the cedar… it’s a real strong combination but you understand that our people are very strong-minded that way, and you can see where it all comes from. And if you watch the water and what it does to the sand, and different things you start seeing how when you start looking around at nature, you start seeing the different elements in our design work coming through from nature into the work itself. So it’s pretty quite amazing. You spend some time there and you start picking it out, studying our art, and it all starts standing to reason you know. Our old ancestors were pretty amazing and they thought about things quite deeply.

Play audio: Artists Inspiring Artists (1:39)
James Hart speaks about how artists are inspired by other artists and their art.

Audio transcript

I've seen a show at one time, another show with his stuff in it, well it might even be here, where he was carving some metal, some silver, and then he bumped into Chinny Charlie Edenshaw’s work, and his design changed just like that, boomp! -- and it was like overnight he changed into where he started focusing on Charlie’s work and studying his work and it influenced his style quite a bit for quite a few years, and then you can see where Bill started to take off from that on his own initiatives, you know, his own ideas, but using Charlie as a great stepping stone to move forward, and it was really amazing to see the differences.

But that’s how my old Chinny Charlie Edenshaw was you know. If you’d seen any of his work, it was like going to school. He’d study it, he’d stop, he’d study it. All artists do that. They all stop and they study it. It’s like every piece is like going to school. And that’s the same with Bill’s. You know like Bill Reid has done some pretty amazing things too, and I stop and study all the time. And it’s really quite nice to see. It’s quite nice to be here amongst it all because that’s how it was in the old days. It was all around you, and the artists used to pick up on each others’ works and carry on you know, and so it went like a spiral, so it’s quite inspiring, so being in the space here with all Bill’s work is quite inspiring.

Activity Six: Assessment: “I Know/I Wonder”

Have students fill out the “I Know/I Wonder” worksheet again. Have students hand in both copies of their worksheets so you can assess their learning.

“I Know/I Wonder”

Topic: Bill Reid’s Life

What I think I know… What I continue to wonder about… More questions I have about Bill Reid…

Printable PDF file

Activity Seven: Assignment: Celebrating Identity

Instructions for students:

In Haida culture, you are born into the identity of your mother’s clan. Clan crests are inherited but can sometimes be chosen to represent family and individual identity. They are cultural and symbolic objects of great importance and respect.

In this exercise you are asked to work co-operatively in small groups to celebrate an individual of your choice through one or more media.

Step One: Choose a person to celebrate

Choose a person to be celebrated by your group. For example, you might choose a friend, a family member or relative, a teacher, a neighbour, someone active in the arts, politics, music, sports, or environmental or humanitarian activities – someone you admire, look up to, and respect.

Step Two: Create an identity mindmap

With your group, plan and carry out research on the person you have chosen using a variety of print and non-print sources.

Research and discuss in what ways the identity of your chosen person may have been shaped by a variety of factors, including: family, gender, values, education, beliefs and interests, likes and dislikes, ethnicity and nationality. Create a mindmap of the various aspects of the person’s identity that you could represent.

Research and discuss what characteristics, stories and objects of importance are associated with your chosen person. For example, consider their environment, modes of travel, favourite activities, music or sports groups, unique hairstyles or clothing, stories about them that you know of or are perhaps told in articles, books, songs, or movies, favourite sayings or quotes, a favourite pet or an animal that shares their characteristics. Add this information to your mindmap.

Your mindmap should include aspects of both individual and group identity.

Step Three: Choose media and plan presentation

Choose one or more of the following presentation media: photographs, photo essay, slideshow, video, animation, painting, drawing, collage, montage, mixed media, poetry, music, carving, sculpture, print or performance art.

Look at the various aspects of your chosen person’s identity that are on your mindmap. Decide how you will represent these aspects of identity in your chosen media, and add this information to your mindmap.

Include representational elements of art and design appropriate to your chosen media, such as type of line, colour scheme, pattern, sound or movement quality.

Step Four: Create an artwork

Working from your mindmap, plan and create an artwork that respectfully represents the identity of the person you have chosen to celebrate.

Step Five: Give a group presentation and critique

Make a group presentation to your class. Explain why you chose to celebrate that person. Which aspects of their identity did you choose to celebrate, and why did you choose the elements and media that you did to represent them? What would that person like most about your celebration of them? Why?

Have students discuss what they liked best about each other’s presentations and where they saw evidence of the topic of identity in each other’s work.

Step Six: Review

Review the components of identity. Have students discuss how Bill Reid’s journey of identity can be traced through his artwork. What aspects of Bill Reid’s identity are represented in the “Celebration of Bill Reid Pole?” What impact did Bill Reid’s journey of identity have on the Haida culture?

Our identities are who we are. They consist of our roots and our wings – our family history and the experiences we have had, the things we are known and recognized for as individuals, our attitudes and values, how we see ourselves and how others see us, the communities we belong to and how we interact with others, the things we like to do, what we want to be, and our way of being in the world.

Ask these take-away questions for students to consider on their own or have students answer them in a short essay:

What do you think others would choose to celebrate about you?

What would you most want others to choose to celebrate about you?

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