Out of the Silence - A Journey Through Pacific Northwest Villages of British Columbia and Alaska

Tanaktak House, Harbeldown Island BC

Harbeldown Island is part of Mainland British Columbia.
Harbeldown Island is part of Mainland British Columbia. | Source

Works of Art Trace Indigenous Settlements

As indigenous residents, the Haida, Kwakiutl, and Alaskan Natives are all Native North American Nations.

These groups have carved cedar poles for their homes and communities since before 1700. They are only three of many Indigenous Peoples' cultures or clusters of communities with histories in the coastal region between Vancouver BC and Southeast Alaska.

First Nations, the earliest North American Natives in Canada, migrated onto the British Columbia mainland from north of that province, from Vancouver Island, and from the Queen Charlotte Islands. With them, they brought languages, cultures, and arts.

Not surprisingly, the migration is the reason that we see carved cedar poles on the BC mainland. The pole carving tradition began in the Eastern Hemisphere and came to the Western Hemisphere with our early immigrants thousands of years ago. "Totem poles" did not begin in the Pacific Northwest.

Approximate Range Of Pacific Northwest Native Peoples

show route and directions
A markerBering Strait -
Bering Strait
[get directions]

B markerAlaska -
Alaska, USA
[get directions]

C markerYukon Territory -
Yukon Territory, Canada
[get directions]

D markerBritish Columbia -
British Columbia, Canada
[get directions]

E markerWashington State -
Washington, USA
[get directions]

Out Of the Silence

Forgotten Historical Projects

Over 40 years ago at this writing, Adelaide de Menil, a professional photographer accompanied master carver Bill Reid on a trip up the Pacific Northwest Coast from the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and Vancouver BC on to the Southeastern tail of Alaska, likely Ketchikan.

That Alaskan end point is likely, because this is the site of a large number of cedar poles carved by indigenous master carvers, some of whom were related to Bill Reid in the past (Chief Wakius/Charlie James, a famous Kwakiutl, among others).

The photographer and the artist examined the wealth of indigenous art pieces found along their route and recorded them for history. Bill Reid had studied his full heritage and toured this area to explore his legacy.

The Pacific Coastal First Nations built village on many sites photographed by the well known photographer. Mr. Reid added text to offer the emotions brought out by these ancient works of an admirable group of peoples. All of this combined to from the book called Out of the Silence published n 1971. My university at the time had just began classes on the Pacific Northwest natives, with emphasis on the Haida.

Unfortunately, only 62 of over eight hundred photos taken could be included in the wonderful book. Luckily for the world, a full 500 have stood on display at the Bill Reid Gallery. The video to the right captures several of them.

Journey's Beginning and Ending

show route and directions
A markerGeorgia Strait -
Strait of Georgia
[get directions]

B markerKetchikan AK -
Ketchikan, AK 99901, USA
[get directions]

Out of the Silence, 150 Pages

Out of the silence
Out of the silence

Written with photography added all in 1968 in British Columbia & Southeastern Alaska, the revitalization of Northwest Coastal Peoples' arts and events was not yet underway. This is a piece of history preserved.


Reviewer's Rating

5 stars for Out of the Silence

Kwakiutl Scenes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Traditional boatsWinter Ceremonial DanceWedding group in 1914
Traditional boats
Traditional boats | Source
Winter Ceremonial Dance
Winter Ceremonial Dance | Source
Wedding group in 1914
Wedding group in 1914 | Source

Corroborating Artist

Artist and historian Emily Carr painted trees as totem poles and compared them with the actual carved cedar poles she found in villages, all before the end of World War II.

Emily Carr And The Pacific Northwest

For more about Emily Carr, visit the Vancouver Art Gallery - Emily Carr (1871 - 1945). This is the largest, most comprehensive website to be found about this artist Emily Carr. It has a searchable database of artworks, biographical and contextual texts, and educational resources for teachers and students.

Similarities of the Pacific Northwest, West USA, and Mexico

Arts of the Tsimshian Peoples Of the BC Coast Compared to that of the US West Coast and Mexico -- Rising to the forefront in public interest and anthropology courses that look at First Nations in Western Canada, the coastal Tsimshian People of British Columbia are becoming more well known. They are revealing themselves as more prolific in arts productions than their more famous Haida relations and equally talented as the famous Kwakiutl masters.

Points in British Columbia

  • Four Host First Nations installations remain in Vancouver BC, preserved from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
  • Gingolx BC Wilp Sa'auuks Git Gingolx: Near Ketchikan AK, in BC at the Nass River.
  • Gitanyow / Kitwancool, BC, HIghway 16: Totem Poles and native BC art, other totemic art installations.
  • Gitwangak Battle Hill National Park, BC: In the 18th Century (1700s), a fortified village was part of the Gitwangak First Nation. The village sat on T'awdzep (Battle Hill), where warriors of the nation could easily look down on all of the Kitwanga River below. Sometimes called the Battle of Kitwanga. Also see Kitwanga BC, Yellowhead; Highway 16, Northern British Columbia -Kitwanga Fort National Historic Site offers tours of a totem pole grouping of several specimens.
  • Haisla G'psgolox Pole in Kitamaat: Honors a family whose members were victim to smallpox.
  • Quadra Island BC, Gulf Islands, British Columbia: Quadra Island is located between Mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island and is known for its totem pole installations.
  • Rivers Inlet: Many additional BC Coastal tribal groups are featured at a well written Facebook Page. You can see comments bu descendants of older master carvers here.
  • University of British Columbia: Installations of Coastal Nations totem poles and other First Nations arts, Vancouver BC.

British Columbia - Selected Points

show route and directions
A markerGingolx BC -
Gingolx, BC, Canada
[get directions]

B markerGitanyow BC -
Gitanyow, BC V0J, Canada
[get directions]

C markerKitwanga BC -
Kitwanga, BC V0J, Canada
[get directions]

D markerKitamaat BC -
Kitamaat Village, BC V0T, Canada
[get directions]

E markerQuadra Island BC -
Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada
[get directions]

F markerVancouver Art Gallery -
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7, Canada
[get directions]

G markerHarbeldown Island -
Harbledown Island, British Columbia, Canada
[get directions]

H markerRivers Inlet BC -
Rivers Inlet, BC V0N, Canada
[get directions]

Points In Southeastern Alaska

  • Cape Fox Corporation: Tlingit "People of the Southeast Wind", have lived in Cape Fox many years, 53 miles southeast of Ketchikan AK. www.capefoxcorp.com
  • Master Carver David Boxley:Tsimshian artist David Boxley is from Metlakatla, Alaska.
  • Hydaburg Totem Park and National American Indian Heritage Month: Started in 1911 by Haida People and in the 1930s, served by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) under US Forest Service. One of several "totem" cultural parks in Southeast Alaska.
  • Sitka National Historical Park: Totem Poles (US National Park Service at www.nps.gov/sitk)
  • Wrangell, Alaska: Alaska Arts, Wrangell Harbor in Alaska; the Chief Shakes House.

Southeastern Alaska - Selected Points

show route and directions
A markerCape Fox AK -
Cape Fox Tours, Tongass National Forest, 300 Spruce Mill Way # 303, Ketchikan, AK 99901-6569, USA
[get directions]

B markerWrangell Harbor -
Wrangell Harbor, Tongass National Forest, Wrangell, AK 99929, USA
[get directions]

C markerHydaburg National Park -
Hydaburg (HYG), Tongass National Forest, Hydaburg, AK 99922, USA
[get directions]

D markerSitka National Historical Park -
Sitka National Historical Park, Tongass National Forest, 103 Monastery St, Sitka, AK 99835, USA
[get directions]

E markerMetlakatla AK -
Metlakatla, AK 99926, USA
[get directions]

British Columbia Meets Alaska In Cities With the Same Name

The peoples of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska -- Postcard of Two Kwakiutl Gentlemen. Displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.
The peoples of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska -- Postcard of Two Kwakiutl Gentlemen. Displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. | Source

Metlakatla, British Columbia and Alaska

show route and directions
A markerMetlakatla, British Columbia -
Metlakatla, BC V0V, Canada
[get directions]

B markerMetlakatla Alaska -
Metlakatla, AK 99926, USA
[get directions]

Tlingit First Nation AK/BC Poles and Explanations

© 2011 Patty Inglish

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Comments 9 comments

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

Hi Patty Inglish, your 'Out of the Silence' slide show is amazing, but it is so tiny in the quarter page format I can hardly see it. Is there some way to publish it in a larger format? I don't think you can go full screen on hub videos, at least I haven't been able to, but I would love to see these images larger. Thanks! I see you have a long list of hubs on first nations history and art, I'm looking forward to visiting one by one. Regards, snakeslane

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

There you go - all bigger now.

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

Thank you very much!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Pleased to do it; it is so hard to get these photos anywhere, we might as well make them big enough. Cheers!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Pleased to do it; it is so hard to get these photos anywhere, we might as well make them big enough. Cheers!

Kiela Starcatcher profile image

Kiela Starcatcher 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

Fascinating stuff, Patty. Glad I stumbled onto it. I can see I have a lot of catching up to do, since all of your anthropological hubs look just as interesting!

Rated up / interesting, and happy to start following!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Interesting that the research was done so long ago - I wonder if anyone will retrace that are and find out all the newer master carvers and artisans? I'd love that.

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

Hi Patty, quite a few people have been doing that. Aldona Jonaitis 'Chiefly Feasts' is a good resource book.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I have that book, indeed, and have used it as reference for other related Hubs!

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