1 of 2

Attributed to Sdiihldaa/Simeon Stilthda (ca. 1799–1889), Haida
Wood, paint, bone (missing)
Collected by Israel W. Powell between 1880–85
Donated by Heber R. Bishop
Courtesy of the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, 16/396

After a century without clear attribution due to scant accession records, this carving is now identified as the work of Simeon Stilthda. However, less is known about its significance. Likely made for sale to coastal visitors, the figure is often described as a shaman transforming into a raven—one of the most significant animals in Haida cosmology—although some contemporary Natives suggest other possible birds. The fronts of the wings are designed in abstract formline style, while the backs are painted and carved naturalistically. The wings’ vertical position connotes those on Christian angels, which were seen by the Haida in evangelical images of the period. Would prospective Euro-American buyers have perceived the iconographic parallels? Did the Haida posit an analogy between the protective powers of shamans and angels or their shared potential for bodily transformation? Dual representation of Haida and Christian imagery might symbolize a spiritual rather than physical transformation, as many Haida converted to Christianity in the late nineteenth century, or the presence of competing or complementary belief systems at the same time.

Argillite container (both sides). Haida, late 19th–early 20th century. Image RBCM 6370 views 3 and 4, courtesy of Royal BC Museum.

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: Christianity, hybridity, misidentification, model, souvenir, transformation