Robert Davidson Sr. | gannyaa | 1880-1969 | Robert’s Grandfather (Tsinii)
Robert Davidson Sr. was a respected man of the Eagle lineage in Massett. He was noted as a skilled carpenter. He helped build the local Anglican Church in 1919, designed and built his own houses, and was commissioned to build two traditional Haida canoes with his brother. A commercial fisherman by trade, he took up argillite carving in his later years. He helped guide Robert on his landmark pole raising in Massett in 1969, and it brought Robert great joy that his grandfather lived to see this first totem raised in his lifetime.
He also was considered a keeper of the songs and passed along knowledge of Haida composer Naahiilaans, whose songs have now been restored and recorded in the Songs of Haida Gwaii Legacy Project, Archival Anthology.
Florence Edenshaw Davidson | jadal q’egengá (story maid) | 1896–1993 | Robert’s Grandmother (Naanii)
Born in Massett, Florence Edenshaw Davidson came from a long line of distinguished Haida. The daughter of Charles Edenshaw, she was an artist renowned for her skillful weaving of spruce root and cedar bark, and her button-blankets, which she started sewing as a young girl. She married Robert Davidson Sr. in 1911, and had thirteen children.
She was a respected elder in her community and she shared her knowledge of traditional Haida life with her children and grandchildren, as well as a host of anthropologists, museum curators, art historians, and others interested in Haida subjects such as linguistics and ethnobotany. She dedicated a large portion of her life in later years to preservation of the Haida language. In the 1960s she was consultant on Haida culture and Massett history to the writer Christie Harris, author of Raven’s Cry. She became more widely known through her collaborative autobiography “During My Time – Florence Edenshaw Davidson: A Haida Woman” written with the anthropologist Margaret B. Blackman, published in 1982.
Claude Davidson | tlajang nang kingaas (the one who is known far away) | 1924 – 1991 | Robert’s Father
Claude Davidson served as chief of the Village of Dadens, Langara Island, Haida Gwaii. A carver in his family’s tradition, he encouraged his sons Robert and Reg to start carving. Robert recounts that his father offered strong support for his projects. He was instrumental in helping Robert realize the first totem pole raising in Massett in living history in 1969; he found the right tree to use for the project after searching for weeks, he built a carving shed outside the house for Robert to carve it and he was in charge of the pole raising itself.
Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson | lalaxaaygans (beautiful sound) | Robert’s Wife
Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson is a unique voice for indigenous cultures. She is a Haida musician, artist, and lawyer, well known for her work in aboriginal-environmental law and as a recognized keeper of traditions. She is the founder of Raven Calling Productions, an entertainment company that shares and showcases Haida artistic traditions.
Born and raised in Haida Gwaii, Terri-Lynn has dedicated herself to the continuation of Haida culture. The traditional Haida songs her centenarian great-grandmother sang have motivated and been a beacon throughout her life, leading her to help preserve a legacy of Haida music through the Haida Gwaii Singers Society. For her work, which has spanned over 30 years and has helped bring renewal to Haida songs, she received a ‘Keeper of Traditions’ Canadian Aboriginal Music Award in 2008.
Deep on the front lines of Indigenous Rights, her work strives to open new vistas to her audiences rooted in Indigenous world views, Haida language and laws, music and oral traditions, and branches out to explore their relevance to contemporary society.
In 2011 Terri-Lynn released her first solo CD with original compositions – ‘New Journeys’. She was awarded ‘Best Female Artist’ at the 2011 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards for the release which was a collaboration with classical composer Bruce Ruddell. In 2017, she released the CD 'Grizzly Bear Town' with Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence, a multi-media exhibit and book entitled 'Out of Concealment: Female Supernatural Beings of Haida Gwaii'. Terri-Lynn has also recorded for film and television, and she has performed throughout the world including Indonesia, Italy, Amsterdam and New York.
Terri-Lynn is also a well-known lawyer representing the Haida Nation in the area of aboriginal-environmental law. To find out more about her law work, visit White Raven Law's website.
Reg Davidson | skil kaat’laas | kiiglaajuwee | hlk’iann k’usdann sgaanuwaa | Robert’s Younger Brother
Reg is also an internationally acclaimed Haida artist who creates sculptures, silk-screen prints, gold and silver jewelry, weaving, carved masks and painted drums. He was born in Massett in 1954. Reg began his artistic training as did Robert, under the guidance of his father, Claude Davidson. He began carving in 1972. Among his many interesting commissions was a major totem pole project that was ordered by the noted British artist, Damien Hirst, in 2006.
While still in high school, Reg worked together with Robert to raise the first totem pole in Haida Gwaii in nearly 90 years. “Reg’s commitment gave me strength to finish this job,” notes Robert. “We worked together many hours a day, six days a week until it was completed.”
Reg is an accomplished dancer and singer with the Rainbow Creek Dancers, a Haida Dance group that Reg and Robert formed in 1980. Reg designed and created much of the dance regalia for the group including masks, drums, and kid leather dance capes. Reg recognizes the importance of song and dance to Haida. He is from the Eagle, Ts’aahl 'Laanas Clan.
“When I am home I go to my studio everyday. When I am working, I try and make a piece where if you do not know anything about Haida Art, you will still appreciate the piece. When I started to understand the dancing and singing it brought a whole new life to my carvings.”
Ben Davidson | tlajang nang kingaas (the one who is known far away) stlaay q’aalaagaas (ambitious hands) | Robert’s Son
Ben is a Haida artist. Born in 1976, he began carving when he was very young – as early as four years old. Hanging around the shop, his father and Uncle Reg gave him projects to do, he recalls. Ben’s formal apprenticeship in carving began at the age of sixteen. He completed a four-year apprenticeship with both his father and uncle.
Drawing upon his traditional knowledge of Haida design he creates innovative and unique contemporary pieces, which are sought after by collectors from around the world. Fittingly, Ben’s Haida name is tlajang nang kingaas meaning “the one who is known far away.” He specializes in wood sculptures, has experience with two-dimensional designs and has expanded his repertoire into jewellery and engraving.
Ben lives and works in Haida Gwaii, from his Gallery All About U Arts which overlooks Skidegate Inlet. His dedication to the revival of Haida culture moves beyond the realm of art. He is also an original member of the Rainbow Creek Dancers, like his father and uncle, and this extensive experience enables him to continually explore the symbiotic relationship between the ceremonial and contemporary roles of Haida art.
Sara Davidson | skil jadee (wealth spirit woman) | sgaann jaadgu saandlaans (killer whale woman on whom it is dawning) | t’siliiaalaas jaad (raven fin woman) | Robert’s Daughter
Sara is a Haida educator and scholar who has a PhD in Literacy Education from the University of British Columbia. Her research has focused upon the use of autobiographical and narrative writing to engage in the writing process and to explore identities, as well as the mandating of Indigenous content in the curriculum. She has also explored ways to merge the strengths of Indigenous and non-Indigenous pedagogical practices. Currently she is an Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. She is also the project lead on the Indigenous Storybooks project where she is exploring how traditional Indigenous stories can be used to strengthen text-based and Indigenous literacy practices.
She has worked as an educator with adolescents in the K-12 system for close to a decade in both British Columbia and Yukon Territory. She also has experience at the post-secondary level working with Fundamental Adult Learners. More recently, she has worked with teacher candidates and practicing teachers to bring Indigenous content, perspectives, and pedagogies into their classrooms - particularly in the area of English Language Arts.