The Haida and the Maori share a common history of wearable art in the form of amulets and pendants. The image of a man riding on a whale also appears in the core histories of both cultures.
The Haida tell of the loss of three brothers who were known to travel on rough seas to hunt seals. On one occasion, they were near some islets off the Northwest tip of Haida Gwaii and were surrounded by a pod of killer whales who circled the canoe, pulling it beneath the waves. The brothers were taken to the village of the ocean people. Inside the longhouse, the killerwhale people could take off their skins and take human form. They had a ritual to transform the brothers into killer whales — the younger brothers underwent the transformation, but the eldest had a black stone amulet worn around his neck that he used to ward off the fins until the Killer Whales finally stopped — his brothers save him by carrying him back to the shore.
He arrives days after his disappearance and hears the sounds of mourning coming from his village — particularly from his own mother who has now lost all of her sons. He feels too ugly to enter the village and spends several days in the peripheral forest listening to the growing sounds of mourning. In his pain he lets out a great cry — and the sky opens to a great thunderstorm that washes away his killer-whale skin, and he then is able to enter the village as a surviving son and has the opportunity to recount the fate of his brothers.
After he recovers, he is told that two whales have washed ashore and he requests they not be touched, as they are his brothers. He hosts a memorial potlatch to the whales and takes the killer whale as a crest. The Haida belief is that when someone is lost at sea, they transform into killer whales.
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Christian was born in Queen Charlotte City and raised in Old Masset, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia). He is from the Dadens Yahgu’7laanaas Raven Clan and his Haida name is Kilthguulans (Voice of Gold). He started carving argillite at the age of fourteen under the direction of his father, Morris White. He studied the work of the great masters and especially of his great-great-grandfather Charles Edenshaw. A self-supporting artist since the age of seventeen, Christian shows an advanced knowledge of Haida forms and an emerging personal style based on narrative story telling and strong use of inlays of various materials, even in his earlier pieces.
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