Home

Wilson Duff’s dystopia

February 23, 2010


The World Is As Sharp As A Knife
“There are no laws,
which you can trust to work.
There are just rules,
which you must make to work.
In the one hand,
you are holding the mirror.
On the other hand,
you are the mask.
Put on the mask and look in the mirror.
What you see
(the mirror does not lie)
is that which is common to both,
the truth you can believe (Wilson Duff).'”
DRAFT
Timeline
1763, “[While Chief Pontiac and the Ottawa tribe lay siege to Fort Pitt, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, commanding general of British forces, Colonel Henry Bouquet, Captain Ecuyer, and Commander William Trent conspired to intentionally infect the tribe with smallpox via blankets, handkerchiefs, and linen. While the practical ramifications of this act are disputed, the historical significance of one of the first documented acts of directed biological warfare is staggering.” Singh, Rondeep. “Smallpox in the Americas: from Imperial to Germ Warfare.” The University of Western Ontario http://helios.e-e-e.gr/medicine/files/History_of_medicine_days.pdf#page=132
1770 30% of West Coast Native Americans were killed in a smallpox epidemic.
1800s-1850 At their largest, the Haida numbered 8,000 in the first half of the 19th century. But after suffering through the ravages of foreign diseases such as smallpox their numbers dwindled. The Haida observe an ancestry of matriarchal lineage. Families are divided into subgroups of eagles and ravens according to their mother’s ancestral lines. Renowned for their expert fishing abilities and techniques, the Haida are also celebrated for their exquisite crafts and carvings.
1800-1801 Smallpox epidemic among the eastern Puget Sound Indians (Sources: Robert Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence (Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1999), 22-24, 27-30, 34, 36-37, 55, 204-205, 273, 293-295; Menzies’ Journal of Vancouver’s Voyage April to October, 1792 ed. by C. F. Newcombe (Victoria, B.C.: Printed by William H. Cullin, 1923), 29, 53-63; George Vancouver, A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific and Round the World … Vol. 2 (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1798), p. 229-230, 241-242; Peter Puget, “Log of the Discovery. May 7-June 11, 1792,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1939), p. 198; Robert T. Boyd, George M. Guilmet, David L. Whited, Nile Thompson, “The Legacy of Introduced Disease: The Southern Coast Salish” American Indian and Culture and Research Journal Vol. 15, No. 4 (1991), p. 7-8, 11.
1862 Smallpox epidemic among the eastern Puget Sound Indians (Sources: Robert Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence (Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1999), 22-24, 27-30, 34, 36-37, 55, 204-205, 273, 293-295; Menzies’ Journal of Vancouver’s Voyage April to October, 1792 ed. by C. F. Newcombe (Victoria, B.C.: Printed by William H. Cullin, 1923), 29, 53-63; George Vancouver, A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific and Round the World … Vol. 2 (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1798), p. 229-230, 241-242; Peter Puget, “Log of the Discovery. May 7-June 11, 1792,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1939), p. 198; Robert T. Boyd, George M. Guilmet, David L. Whited, Nile Thompson, “The Legacy of Introduced Disease: The Southern Coast Salish” American Indian and Culture and Research Journal Vol. 15, No. 4 (1991), p. 7-8, 11.
1860s Traditional art forms such as the carving of totem poles that preserved a family’s heritage throughout the years began to be threatened as so many First Nations die during smallpox epidemic. Since the arrival of settlers, entire villages of 500 or more are emptied of their living inhabitants because of the disease. Their artifacts remain.
1879 Mungo Martin was born in Fort Rupert, British Columbia. He was of the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) tribe and was known as Chief NaKePenkim in his culture. Mungo Martin (1879-1962) learned from his stepfather Charlie James, a well known Northwestern artist. He became one of the first traditional artists to deal with many types of Northwest Coast sculptural styles.
1879  I.W. Powell took a Tsimshian mask with closed eyes from the Tsimshian village of Kitkatlawas and brought it to Ottawa. http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=3015

Alphone Pinart took a Tsimshian mask with open eyes from Metlakatla or on the Nass River. It was brought to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris where it was stored. http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=3015

1890 A few Indian oral histories survive that may describe the 1770s epidemic. In the 1890s, an “aged informant” from the Squamish tribe, located near the mouth of the Fraser River, related the history of a catastrophic illness to ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout. The ethnographer wrote:

“[A] dreadful misfortune befell them. … One salmon season the fish were found to be covered with running sores and blotches, which rendered them unfit for food. But as the people depended very largely upon these salmon for their winter’s food supply, they were obliged to catch and cure them as best they could, and store them away for food. They put off eating them till no other food was available, and then began a terrible time of sickness and distress. A dreadful skin disease, loathsome to look upon, broke out upon all alike. None were spared. Men, women, and children sickened, took the disease and died in agony by hundreds, so that when the spring arrived and fresh food was procurable, there was scarcely a person left of all their numbers to get it. Camp after camp, village after village, was left desolate. The remains of which, said the old man, in answer by my queries on this, are found today in the old camp sites or midden-heaps over which the forest has been growing for so many generations. Little by little the remnant left by the disease grew into a nation once more, and when the first white men sailed up the Squamish in their big boats, the tribe was strong and numerous again” (Boyd, 55).http://historyink.com/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5100

1920 Bill Reid was born in Victoria, BC. His father William Reid, an American of Scottish and German descent, came to BC to run hotels in two northern British Columbia towns.

1929 Barbeau, Marius. 1929. Totem Poles of the Gitksan. Upper Skeena River, BC.
1925 Wilson Duff ( (1925-1976) was born.
1932 Bill Reid’s father abandoned his family leaving his wife to raise the children alone. Sophie Gladstone, a Haida from the Queen Charlotte Islands, was educated at the Coqualeetza residential school. My mother thought it was a good place to live since it was full of English people and she was a life-long, ardent anglophile. She is the best example of brainwashing that the Indian residential school system ever turned out.” — Bill Reid in Saturday Night, February
1932. Sophie Gladstone supported her family by working as a dress-maker and designer in Victoria. When he was young, Reid knew little of his mother’s Native heritage. Although the young Reid had some interest in carving,
literature, music, and poetry, his development as an artist was a prolonged process which stretched over several decades.
1943 Bill Reid was twenty-three when he first visited Skidegate, his mother’s home town, and met his grandfather, Charles Gladstone. Gladstone was a carver and engraver who had learned his art from his uncle, a man named Charles Edenshaw, who was, perhaps, the best-known nineteenth-century Haida carver. At the time he met his grandfather, Charles Gladstone, Reid was already working in radio and he soon moved to Toronto to take up a job with the CBC.
1947 In his sixties, artist Mungo Martin (1881-1962) accepted UBC’s offer to oversee the restoration of totem poles. Mungo learned his craft from his stepfather Charlie James. He restored totems and taught others the skill until he died in 1962. He began replicating old poles for the British Columbia Provincial Museum’s outdoor display in Thunderbird Park. Mungo taught his son-in-law Henry Hunt and his grandson Tony Hunt, both of whom worked with Mungo at Thunderbird Park. In the 1980s his grandson Richard Hunt continued his work. Mungo also taught the Haida artist Bill Reid the traditional woodworking techniques of the Southern Kwakiutl, and worked with Doug Cranmer, the grandson of Mungo’s second wife Abayah.
1949 29-year-old Bill Reid became discontented with his CBC job as night-time newsreader in Toronto. At first he had wanted to be the best soap salesman chief salesman for Procter and Gamble but he soon became bored and
disillusioned although he remained with the CBC as a honey-voiced announcer for 20 years. Working the 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift, Reid was at loose ends during the day and enrolled in a jewellery-making course at Ryerson Institute of Technology to occupy himself during his time off work. Reid also served an apprenticeship there. He visited the Royal Ontario Museum to study totem poles (which had been “purchased?” or stolen? from northern BC Native peoples) , all the while continuing his work in radio. Bill Reid scraped by working as a CBC newsreader in Toronto to support his family.
1949 Wilson Duff earned his BA UBC, Vancouver at 24-years-old; Based on his fieldwork with six main informants in the summers of 1949 and 1950, Wilson Duff provided the first modern ethnographic study of the Cowichan group in 1952. Who were these informants?
1950 Barbeau, Marius. 1950. Totem Poles. 2 volumes. National Museum of Canada.
1951 Bill Reid worked for the CBC in Vancouver. Here he visited the UBC Museum of Anthropology. He set up his own jewelry shop, and began to work on totem pole replication and restoration projects. He began to study Haida
art and culture as a white man investigating a set of formal design problems. See art critic Roger Downe. He first worked on a replication project in Thunder Bird park where he met Mungo Martin, a highly-skilled Kwakwaka’wakw
carver who was overseeing the project. Martin helped Reid to develop his skills as a carver. He next worked on a project sponsored by the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology restoring a Haida house and
totem pole.
1951 Wilson Duff earned his MA at 26-years-old; His MA was based on fieldwork with the Stó:lõ Salish people of the Fraser River in B.C.
1952 Duff, Wilson. Totem Poles of the Gitksan Totem-Poles 1952. a survey of those totem poles in Barbeau (1929) that were still standing in 1952. Totem Poles of the Gitksan. Upper Skeena River, BC.
1952 Based on his fieldwork with six main informants in the summers of 1949 and 1950, Wilson Duff provided the first modern ethnographic study of the Cowichan group in 1952.
1950- 1965 Wilson Duff was Curator of Anthropology at the British Columbia Provincial Museum. At 25 Duff became the first anthropologist to be fully employed by the provincial government of B.C. as its curator of anthropology at the provincial museum in Victoria (from 1950 to 1965).
He was involved with Mungo Martin in the reclamation of totem poles.
“Having served as a consultant for the Kitwancool in northern B.C., Wilson Duff served as an expert witness for both the Calder Case and the ensuing Nisga’a land claims case before the B.C. Supreme Court. As an avid photographer and a carver of no small skill himself, he published a guide to Victoria’s Thunderbird Park and he made an important contribution by identifying personal art styles among Aboriginal artists, particularly Charles Edenshaw. This work led others, such as Bill Reid, to believe that most of the finest carving on Haida Gwaii was accomplished by relatively few gifted artists.”
1950s Wilson Duff was only in his twenties when he decided to take the last remaining Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) totem poles by having them removed from their village Kitwancool (a.k.a. Gitanyow) and brought to the Royal British Columbia Museum or RBCM) in Victoria for preservation. They were cut down with chain saws and hauled to Victoria by boat.
1957 Wilson Duff, Bill Reid and … went to Haida villages and used power saws to cut down totems.
1957-11-01 “Carvers of the totem poles.” CBC. “It’s 1957 and Bill Reid is an announcer for CBC Radio in Toronto. In this CBC Radio clip, Reid takes a reprieve from his news-announcing duties and narrates a program about totem
poles. But in the meantime, Reid’s two passions of art and broadcasting are colliding. In various CBC Radio and Television specials, Reid acts as the unofficial spokesman on Haida art and culture. In this clip, Reid praises the Haida
carvers’ unparalleled virtuosity.”
1958 Bill Reid worked on a project sponsored by the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology to restore a Haida house and totem pole. Bill Reid became a full-time artist at the age of 38. He resigned from the CBC where he had worked as the honey-voiced announcer for 20 years.
1958. Duff, Wilson; Kew Michael. 1958. “Anthony Island, a Home of the Haida.” British Columbia Provincial Museum Annual Report for 1957. pp. 37-64. An account of the expedition which salvaged sections of 11 poles.
1959 Duff, Wilson. “Histories, Territories, and Laws of the Kitwancool.” Anthropology in British Columbia. pp 21-30.
1960-1966 Wilson Duff chaired the Archaeological Sites Advisory Board.

1963 Wilson along with Willard Ireland and Dr. Clifford Carl, provided the impetus for the formation of the BCMA, and served as the Associations third President from 1963-1964 and was active in encouraging native participation in the Association.

1964. Duff, Wilson. “Contributions of Marius Barbeau to West Coast Ethnology. Anthropologica. Review of the existence of totem poles at the time of European contact.
1965 40-year-old Wilson Duff resigned? as Curator of Anthropology at the British Columbia Provincial Museum (1951-1065). He became Associate Professor/Professor of Anthropology, UBC (1965 on)
1967 Duff, Wilson; Holm, Bill; Reid, Bill. Arts of the Raven: Masterworks of the Northwest Coast Indians. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery. animal forms.
1967 Following his preparation of the 191-page Arts of the Raven catalogue for a Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit in 1967, Wilson became obsessed with the notion of bringing together the only two stone masks known to exist from the Northwest Coast; the other with open eyes was kept in Paris.
1969 Wilson Duff served in court as an expert witness in the Nisga’a land-claims case Calder vs. Attorney-General of B.C., the famous “Calder case.”
1970s By the early 1970s Wilson Duff was consumed with studying Haida art in all its formalistic and cosmological complexity — taking in structuralist and psychoanalytical insights — an endeavour which he undertook with his friend the Haida artist Bill Reid but which never resulted in a comprehensive published articulation. His immersion in the Haida thought-world was so total that, as he wrote in the early 1970s, colleagues “are concerned about my sanity and reputation.”
“His profound admiration for the arts of the West Coast was obvious at all times, and so was his anxious need, always unsatisfied, to penetrate their most secret meaning, even beyond the meaning assigned by the artists themselves… He was, one felt, tormented by problems related to the psychology–I would even say the metaphysics–of art.” — Claude Lévi-Strauss
1973-02 Hesquiat Band Cultural Centre: Lack of funds hit by Chief Rocky Amos. Nesika. Vancouver. Indian Affairs denied Hesquiat Band’s request for funds for their proposed Cultural Centre.
Chief Rocky Amos argued that UBC was granted $10 million to house Indian artifacts so “more white people could study Indians.” Chief Rocky Amos also cautioned that the linguistic programme which includes language lessons prepared for pre-school children in Hesquiat dialect of central Nootka language, is on the verge of closing due to lack of funds. http://qmackie.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/nesika-1973-volume-2-number-1.jpg
1973-02 By a member of the Hesquiat Band. Whitemen Stole Indian Artifacts: People now demand own museums. UBC basement storage has an unsurpassed collection of Northwest Coast Indian art. These Indian artifacts have no didactic material on who did the carving, what family owns the crests, who obtained the art work, was it purchased or stolen?
“I have seen places in the Queen Charlottes where ancient totem poles have been cut off at the base with a power saw, dragged to the sea and towed behind a tug through salt water to be relocated. I have seen groups of Indian children escorted through government-run museums; small brown-eyed children under the watchful eyes of white museum guards, looking at glass cases in which lie the history of their people. A history made odd, different, and strangely foreign because it is lying in a glass case in a white man’s institution. [] Who ever asked for permission to remove our heritage and place it in glass cases? [] Why are there no funds for museums for us? [] There is money for a boat to take archaeology students up and down our coastline to dig up the bones of our grandfathers and sift, sort and label sacred objects from our burial grounds, but no money for us to treat our heritage with the dignity it deserves?”
Nesika. Vancouver.
1975 Wilson Duff and Vancouver Art Gallery director Richard Simmins succeeded in obtaining permission from France to transport their priceless Tsimshian mask to British Columbia. Wilson Duff retrieved the twin Tsimshian mask from the Musée de l’Homme for a one-year period, bringing it to his home in Vancouver; Hilary Stewart transported the mask from Vancouver to the Victoria Art Gallery where it was reunited with the mask from Ottawa. Hilary Stewart transported the mask from Vancouver to the Victoria Art Gallery where it was reunited with the mask from Ottawa. “The sightless mask was lifted carefully and placed over the face of its seeing twin,” Stewart recalled. “…the two nested together in a close, snug fit. It was a deeply moving moment as the two masks came together again for the first time in a hundred years or more.”  After consulting with Musqueam Della Kew, Duff ensured the twin stone masks were henceforth stored together, one cradled by the other, each an equal part of a whole. He later wrote, “Life is a pair of twin stone masks which are the very same but have opposite eyes.” The masks represented the “living paradoxes in myth and life” that he believed were near the source of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art.”http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=

1976 Duff, Wilson. “Mute Relics of Haida Tribe’s Ghost Villages.” Smithsonian.
1976-08-08 “Wilson Duff committed suicide on August 6, 1976 in Vancouver, at age 51, hoping to be reincarnated as an Aboriginal from Haida Gwaii or the Tsimshian First Nation. Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote, “I wonder if it was not, after all, this desperate quest for infinite mysteries–perhaps because they were above all an exigency of his mind–that killed this unaffected, charming, altruistic and kind man, who was also a great scholar.” For his 50th birthday, Bill Reid had given Wilson Duff a silver medallion with a Haida design with an inscription on the back saying “survivor, first class.” He was wearing the medallion when he shot himself to death.” “He as on the planning committee for the new Vancouver Museum, consultant to the National Museum of Man, Ottawa. His publications were classics in the field – contributions to the study of First Nations cultures that added considerably to the development of museums around the province. He was recognized as one of the leaders I the “redefinition of ethnological materials as fine arts” within the early Canadian museum community. see
1981 Donald N. Abbott edited The World Is As Sharp As A Knife: An Anthology in Honour of Wilson Duff . The title was drawn from a poem by Wilson Duff of the same name.
1998 Bill Reid died. He had become an internationally-recognized artist whose work earned him wide praise. He is likely the best-known of all the artists who contributed to what is sometimes referred to as a renaissance in Native
Canadian art.
1999 Bierwert, Crisca. 1999. Brushed by Cedar, Living by the River: Coast Salish Figures of Power. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999. Reviewed by Brian Thom, McGill University. [this review is to be published in American Anthropologist]
“In Brushed by Cedar Bierwert takes us to two Coast Salish Native communities (Stó:lo and Lushootseed) on the Northwest Coast and explores Coast Salish ways of making sense of current moral, intellectual, political and spiritual issues and dilemmas.” Bierwert was aware of the dangers inherent in writing about the power of the spirit dance.
“When told about one initiate dying and another losing the ability to write when they had both joined the spirit dance in order to write about it, she reflected with some concern on the death of the two other scholars who published on Stó:lo spirit dance practices (Wilson Duff’s suicide and Oliver Well’s accidental death while vacationing in Scotland) and the controversy surrounding the publication of Jilek’s self-serving psychoanalytical text on spirit dancing. She describes the subsequent tension of being engaged in the community, even participating in a spirit dance, and the degree of circumspection needed in writing about spiritual matters, which she is left to figure out for herself. She finds that writing about these things is a part of a larger social dynamic, where “the boundaries of practice allow for variation, for deployment at different limits and different times” (133) and it is the movement of these boundaries which reveal the processes of power which give tension to these dynamics. Coast Salish people see syowen (the spirit which empowers the dancers) as an active agent, much the same way particular places are seen as containing power. Coast Salish people are motivated by the power of the syowen to respond to ritual, political and everyday situations with attention to the unique ways that the power may manifest itself. It motivates Bierwert to respect a boundary of appropriateness in her own writing about spirit dancing, staying clear of describing or trying to explain the details of the practice, while at the same time giving a sense of its power. In the most emotionally potent chapter Bierwert grapples with the ongoing problem of family violence in Stó:lo communities. She first brings forward the voices of some of the Stó:lo women – her friends – who discussed with her the violence which had occurred in her own marriage. The chapter sensitively moves back and forth between their commentary, their descriptions of their own experiences, and Bierwert’s discussion of how this unfortunately common violence may be uniquely understood in particular Coast Salish ways. Her friends respond the violence in their lives in various ways, but almost never did they or their families intervene. Like in spirit dancing, there are different boundaries of power which must be respected. Bierwert concludes that while traditional family structures which may have kept past violence in check have been disrupted by colonial institutions, the violence is now perpetuated by a difficult configuration of Native men appropriating the kinds of violence that is more widely present in non-Native communities and Coast Salish ways of thinking about how bad things need to run their course (Thom’s review).”
2001 Marjorie Halpin was curator of ethnology at UBC MOA until her untimely death. She studied under Wilson Duff?
2004 approximately 2,000 Haida lived in Canada, almost all in Haida Gwaii.
2010 Artistic Directors Dennis Garnhum (Calgary) and Max Reimer (Vancouver) presented the world premiere production of Beyond Eden, written and composed by Bruce Ruddell, during their 2009-10 seasons at Theatre Calgary and the Playhouse Theatre Company of Vancouver. Beyond Eden will be featured as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

See also Rhyne, Charles S. 2000. “Changing Approaches to the Conservation of Northwest Coast Totem Poles.” Tradition and Innovation: Advances in Conservation Contributions to the Melbourne Congress, 10-14 October 2000. London: International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 2000. Pp.155-160, color plates 7.1-7.4.

http://academic.reed.edu/art/faculty/rhyne/papers/approaches.html http://home.istar.ca/~bthom/brushed.htm http://gsdl.ubcic.bc.ca/cgi-bin/library?e=q-11000-00—off-0nesika1-nesika1,ubcicnew,unitybul,ubcicbu1-01-1–0-10-0—0—0prompt-10—4——-0-1l–11-en-50—20-about-archaeology–00-3-1-01-0-0-11-0-0utfZz-8-00&a=d&cl=CL1″ target=”_blank”>http://gsdl.ubcic.bc.ca/cgi-bin/library?e=q-11000-00—off-0nesika1-nesika1,ubcicnew,unitybul,ubcicbu1-01-1–0-10-0—0—0prompt-10—4——-0-1l–11-en-50—20-about-archaeology–00-3-1-01-0-0-11-0-0utfZz-8-00&a=d&cl=CL1 http://qmackie.files.wordpress.com/2010/02 http://qmackie.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/nesika-1973-volume-2-number-1.jpg http://historyink.com/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5100 http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_author.php?id=3015 http://helios.e-e-e.gr/medicine/files/History_of_medicine_days.pdf#page=132 http://academic.reed.edu/art/faculty/rhyne/papers/approaches.html

3 Responses to “Wilson Duff’s dystopia”

  1. Eleanor Gilligan Says:

    I have read your article and it appears that the Indians were treated very mush like the Irish during the great famine when they were left to die on the road sides of Ireland, because of the potato blight!
    [“They put off eating them till no other food was available, and then began a terrible time of sickness and distress. A dreadful skin disease, loathsome to look upon, broke out upon all alike.]

  2. Ken Lund Says:

    You list in the 1950’s

    “Wilson Duff was only in his twenties when he decided to take the last remaining Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) totem poles by having them removed from their village Kitwancool”

    Kiwancool is on the Skeena River and far removed from Haida Gwaii

    Thought you may want to make the change

    Ken

  3. Philip Ward Says:

    Re. Ken Lund’s comment:

    He is absolutely correct. The Haida village from which the poles were removed was Ninstints. However, Wilson was also involved in an agreement with the Kitwancool Band, whereby some poles were removed from Kitwancool and local carvers were paid to carve replicas to replace them. As I recall, both removals were made with the full consent of the current Band Councils. The complaints came from a later generation of local polititians seeking to extract funds from the federal government.

    After Wilson’s tragic death a similar situation – for which he was in no way responsible – arose at the Gitksan village of Kitwanga.

    Philip Ward.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s