A unique chiefly robe and a private ceremony made public, gave visitors and Islanders a glimpse into the intimate world of weavers.
Artist Kujuuhl Evelyn Vanderhoop presented her most recent Naaxiin robe Friday, August 21 to an appreciative gathering at the Haida Gwaii Museum. With the robe hanging from the loom in the late evening with light filtering through the high windows guests were welcomed by hereditary leader Gaahlaay. Following the welcome museum curator Jisgang Nika Collison introduced the artist.
The renowned weaver spoke to the significance of the occasion and her reason for making, what is most often a very private event, public. The intricacies of producing such a garment are complex and the artist spoke eloquently about her choice for the the design and the process she and the other weavers went through to complete robe.
The room hushed as Kujuuhl and daughter k’iinuwaas Carrie Anne Vanderhoop gently cut the robe from the loom releasing it into their arms. The robe was then danced by the artists “twirling the fringe” in a light and joyous moment – the dancers were accompanied by singers Kuunaajid Jenny Cross and Jisgang.
Following are Kujuuhl speaking notes for the releasing of the robe.
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My name is Kujuuhl I am Gawaa Git’ans Gitanee of Massett. My mother is Delores Adams Churchill and my Naanii is Selina Harris Adams Peratrovich.
The ceremony of cutting the robe from the loom bar is a time of joy and also a time of sorrow as I have been weaving and living with this robe for more than two and a half years.
Past ceremonies of releasing the robe from the loom have been done with a small group of close family members. The drum is always present, keeping our hearts strong during the emotional time of cutting the cord. Once the robe is off the bar it is immediately wrapped around the weaver and it is danced around the room in a free-style twirl making the fringe fly out.
Tonight I have invited you to be part of this ceremony because the final unveiling of the completed robe will happen far away from Haida Gwaii. Last year when the collectors, who reside in Kansas, came to visit they were talking to Gladys Vandal about the reception they were planning and Gladys spoke of the necessity of doing something here before it left to go so far away. I agreed with her and this is why I have welcomed all of you here tonight to witness the release of the robe.
The robe is not yet complete, it will need to have fur added along the neckline and side fringes of spun wool. The formal unveiling of the completed robe will be at the University of Kansas campus this coming month.
I have to thank publicly all the people that were part of the robe: my daughter Tiffany Amber Vanderhoop, handspun 500 yards of wool and cedar warp as did Alena Montford; Evelyn Voorhees Brown spun the fine warp for the side braids and Tiffany will spin the fringe that will be attached to the side braids.
I would also like to thank my daughter Carrie Anne Vanderhoop for her part in weaving this robe. For these past years she wove between her career and her job of being an excellent mother, to the excellent Rosalie.
I would like to speak about this robe and its design. It has been patterned after a robe now in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. The original was collected from Haida Gwaii in 1891 by Scottish ethnologist and collector James Deans.
The design of this robe has always intrigued me and it is an honor to receive the commission from Valentine and Beth Stella. I would like to publicly thank them for that.
The main figure on this robe is the Monarch of the Sea – controller of waves and weather. In the old stories the ocean creatures that are depicted to both sides of him are servants, the stories say they are there to help him keep his large eye lids open.
He is depicted most often on the cedar chests of chiefs and it is very unique for him to be shown on a Naaxiin robe. In this design he is reaching for the dorsal fins of a diving whale. The two hues of blue-green and the unique dove tail joins executed by the original weaver are also a variation from the norm on these types of robes, as are the inclusion of the other four beings.
These are all details that support my belief that this robe was woven by a Haida woman and designed by a Haida man.
- You can see the weaving of this robe in photos and other work by Kujuuhl at: