Bill Reid, “Raven and The First Men”, 1980, Yellow Cedar, .University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology
Canadian artist Bill Reid was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in January of 1920. His father was of Scottish-German descent and his mother was from the Raven/Wolg Clan of T’anuu, known as the Haida, one of the First Nations of the Pacific coast. Reid studied jewelry making at the Ryerson Institute of Technology and Haida art from his grandfather.
In 1951 Reid returned to Vancouver, where he established a studio on Granville Island, a suburban area of Vancouver. He became very interested in the artworks of his great-great-uncle Charles Edenshaw, a renowned Haida artist. As a result, Reid’s work began incorporating his ancestors’ visual traditions and mythology into his contemporary style.
“Raven and The First Men” depicts part of a Haida creation myth with the raven representing the Trickster. In this creation story, the raven Trickster opens an oyster shell on the beach to find the first Humans. The Raven coaxed them to leave the shell to join him in his wonderful world. Some of the humans were hesitant at first, but they were overcome by curiosity and eventually emerged from the partly open giant clamshell to become the first Haida.
The sculpture was carved from a giant block of laminated yellow cedar. The carving took two years to complete and was dedicated on April 1, 1980. A number of First Nation carvers also worked on the project, including Reggie Davidson, Jim Hart, and Gary Edenshaw. Working on the emerging little humans in the latter stages was Geroge Rammell, a sculptor in his own right. Bill Reid did most of the finishing carving.