Robert Guud San Glans Davidson



I was born in Hydaburg, Alaska, the hometown of my late mother, Vivian Davidson nee Anniskette. This small community in southeast Alaska was formed in 1911 by the amalgamation of several Haida villages. While I do not have an art studio there, I often return for visits. In 2019 I co-hosted a potlatch in the community, a performance-based socio-political cultural practice.

I grew up in the village of Massett, Haida Gwaii, which is the hometown of my father, Claude Davidson. The Haida were decimated by smallpox and introduced diseases, and Massett was the amalgamation of villages after missionary influences. My father’s family was traditionally located at the village of Dadens on Langara Island (the north-western tip of Haida Gwaii). From that island, Haida people, and my mother’s clan, migrated to southeast Alaska. The Haida people are a matrilineal society, but since my mother came from another village across the Canada-US border, my father’s seven sisters, their husbands, and my father’s brothers taught me traditional Haida values and laws. As an island nation, we survive on the marine environment, and I spent most of my youth learning to fish from my father and paternal grandfather. My grandmother was a great source of knowledge, teaching me about Haida language, feasts, potlatches, and consulting with living Elders. She modeled the wisdom of sharing knowledge to keep traditions alive, worked with Haida linguist John Enrico, and wrote a collaborative book, “During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman”.

I lived in Massett full-time until 1965 when I moved to Vancouver, BC, to complete my high school education. I returned in 1969 at 22 to complete the “Bear Mother” totem pole, described below. I have lived in the lower mainland since then, with frequent trips to Haida Gwaii to spend time and connect my children to my family and to Haida Gwaii.

I am part of a community of artists. I was a founding member of the Northwest Coast Indian Artists Guild in 1977, establishing printmaking as a standard mode of production and bringing international attention to northwest coast art serigraphs.

In 1985 I moved to the territory of the Semiahmoo Nation and located my primary studio in White Rock, BC. In 2008, my wife and I purchased a home near Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii to maintain our connection with our families and our home territory of Haida Gwaii.

I spent many years learning from Elders, including my grandparents, Dora Brooks, Selina Adams-Peratrovich, and Amanda Edgars. The Haida language is considered critically endangered by UNESCO, with less than a dozen fluent speakers over 70. I am not fluent but I often draw upon the Haida language to teach Haida art, songs, dance, culture, and lifeways.

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