(Phase One, at least)
The ReEncounter team arrived in the village of Tanu, just before lunch on June 9th. In the company of Master Carver Jaalen Edenshaw, artist April White – Sgaana Jaad - Killerwhale woman – and Haida Watchman Sean Young, we relocated the site of the undocumented Killerwhale pole quickly and found what we had set out to see.
The forest in and around the village site is more open now. Without the dense thatch of second growth that shrouded the long house remains in 1988, remnants of buildings and other artifacts, are now much easier to discern. Time, however, has taken its toll.
There was very little difference between the memorial Killerwhale pole as documented in 1947 and David Ward's image from 1988, but in subsequent years the process of decay accelerated. Anyone encountering the pole today would likely not recognize it as such. Moss has taken hold and devoured large portions of the exposed surface; beneath though, some of the original features can still be made out.
Although this artifact was missing from the official archives record, Watchman Sean Young has endeavoured to slow the pole's deterioration with some minor, non-invasive, restoration work. He attributes this fallen pole’s longevity, however, to the tree that has suspended it above the ground since the winter of 1967/68. More on this, the preservation of other artifacts, and future collaborative efforts later.
This same day, the ReEncounter team organized a separate zodiac to transport a group of local Haida children (and a French exchange student) to spend a day on site. Because of the cost of getting to this wilderness area, many of the Haida people never have an opportunity to visit their homeland in Gwaii Haanas. Our group is planning to make the charter of a ten seat zodiac an annual event, in order that more Haida children may be exposed to their culture. A portion of sales from our upcoming Haida Gwaii works will be set aside for this purpose, and please feel free to contribute directly. (Details of this program to be determined at the time of our first Post-ReEncounter show, in November.
(Below) The film crew (Joe, Allison and Wolff - standing) accompanied us throughout, recording interviews and documenting events. We hope to project a ten minute mini-doc at the time of our first exhibition, although we will share more of our experiences in the near future. More pictures, and few video clips, will be available shortly.
The relationships we have forged in Haida Gwaii, and particularly in the artistic community, have become far stronger than we could ever have hoped. Artists, of course, are all cut from the same cloth, so this immediate bond isn’t surprising. We have also found natural allies in our cause in the Watchmen who take care of this land for their people and for posterity. As we continue with the crafting of our group's New Regionalism manifesto, we refer to the Haida Watchman Program's own 'mission statement' and the profound opening paragraph of the Haida Nation's Proclamation.
Haida Watchman Program:
"In the past, Haida watchmen were posted at strategic positions around a village to raise the alarm in advance of an approaching enemy... The Haida recognize that nature and culture are intrinsically connected, and that the protection of the natural and cultural values on Haida Gwaii is essential to sustaining their culture. The Haida have always had Guardian Watchmen who protected the land and sea from harm."
The Haida Proclamation:
"Our culture, our heritage is the child of respect and intimacy with the land and sea. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii ... the living generation accepts the responsibility to ensure that our heritage is passed on to following generations."
We see the ideas expressed in these statements as being central to the traditional message of Regionalism ('American Regionalism' –1920s thru 1953 – and briefly, somewhat more recently here in Canada – 'London Regionalism'). We endeavour to make this politically engaged movement relevant once again by addressing the issues above, and other pressing concerns of our day. One of the central objectives of our time away, 'at the edge of the world', was to finalize the first draft of a new manifesto. More on this in the very near future.
The ReEncounter expedition was only a beginning. We hope you will follow us, and even join us, as we continue our journey. Thank you again for your generous support.