Tuesday Poem: Da'Axiigang - Kathleen Jones

Da Axiigang  - Charles Edenshaw
Haida sculptor

They couldn’t say his name
noise in the house-pit
so they called him Charlie,
bought bracelets for their wives,
could not believe his skill
when he shaped bentwood, stone and silver
carving his family history
in narratives of animals and birds and fish
thought savage, but
appropriated anyway for
research, passed round
in after-dinner rooms with whisky and cigars
by tribal elders of colonial plunder
who couldn’t read the clicking
vowels and consonants scored
onto argillite, as smooth as mirror glass,
the totem whorls of  language
they themselves had lost

but felt

the power of the telling
in the stories he spoke
with his hands.

© Kathleen Jones 2015

'Charles Edenshaw' carving a silver bracelet.
Having posted last week about the way that the British tried to deprive the First Nation people of their language, and the confiscation of many of their sacred objects, regalia and other art work, I thought it might be appropriate to post this poem about one of the major artists of the Haida - a man the British renamed Charles Edenshaw.  Recently there was a huge exhibition of his work in Vancouver, brought together from museums and galleries all over the world.  His descendants still carry on the traditions and several are major artists themselves - Gwaii Edenshaw, Robert Davidson, to name only two.

The Tuesday Poets are an international group who try to post a poem every Tuesday and take it in turns to edit the main hub.  If you'd like to see what the other Tuesday poets are posting, please click this link.  


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