Robert Davidson is one of Canada’s most respected and important contemporary visual artists. A northwest coast native of Haida and Tlingit descent, he is a master carver of totem poles and masks and works in a variety of other media as a printmaker, painter and jeweller. He is best known as an impeccable craftsman whose creative and personal interpretation of traditional Haida form is unparalleled. His distinctive style is appreciated by the Haida community and contemporary arts scholars alike, with many of his works considered post-modern masterpieces. His work is sought by collectors internationally.
Davidson’s passion to revive and perpetuate a variety of forms of Haida cultural expression, including song, dance and ceremony, has fuelled his remarkable output throughout the years. He has been responsible among other things for carving and raising the first totem pole in his hometown of Massett in nearly 90 years when he was just 22 years old. His inspiration was to give his elders a chance to celebrate in a way they had not been able to in their lifetimes.
Davidson was born November 4, 1946 to a particularly notable family of artists. His great grandfather was the famed Haida artist, Charles Edenshaw (1839 – 1924) whose superb artworks were well known in the Haida community and also collected and displayed in showrooms internationally, during the era before Haida culture was painfully silenced by the government.
While he was growing up, the art of his culture had virtually disappeared from view in Massett, but from an early age, Robert was surrounded by fine carving as both his father, Claude Davidson and grandfather, Robert Davidson Sr. were respected carvers. Robert began carving at the age of 13 when his father insisted he carry on the family artistic tradition.
Because his local school did not offer all the grades necessary to graduate from high school, in 1965, Robert moved to Vancouver to complete his education at Point Grey Secondary School. In an ironic way, this move allowed him to learn more about the arts of the Haida Nation, as he was able to visit the Vancouver Museum to see stunning artworks that had been collected from Haida Gwaii.
In 1966, while demonstrating his carving work at Eaton’s in Vancouver, Davidson met the late Bill Reid, who then coached him on sculpture and design for the next eighteen months. Through Reid, he met anthropologist Wilson Duff, artist Bill Holm and continued to learn about the Haida art. In 1967 he enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art (predecessor to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design), a place he credits for developing his drawing.
For more than fifty years now, Robert Davidson has worked as an artist and has produced an internationally acclaimed body of work. His work is found in a number of private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.
He has also received many honours for his accomplishments. In 1995 he received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contribution to First Nations art and culture. He holds numerous honourary degrees. He has received the Order of British Columbia, and in 1996 was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada, and received both the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts in 2010.
He is a leading figure in the renaissance of Haida art and culture and is a founding member of The Rainbow Creek Dancers with his brother, Reg Davidson. He is also one of the founding members of the Haida Gwaii Singers Society, started by Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson.
Davidson’s Haida name is: Guud San Glans which means Eagle of The Dawn. He currently lives and works in White Rock near Vancouver and Massett in Haida Gwaii.
Gid7ahl-Gudsllaay Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, B.Sc., LL.B.
A citizen of the Haida Nation and also its General Counsel, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson has practiced in the area of aboriginal-environmental law since she was called to the BC Bar in 1996. She holds two degrees from the University of British Columbia: Bachelor of Laws, 1995; and Bachelor of Science (Computer Science), 1990.
Since 1995 she has represented the Haida Nation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada in litigation to protect the old-growth forests of Haida Gwaii, the Haida Nation’s TFL39 Case, the leading case on consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal Rights related to resource development. She is also counsel for the Haida Nation’s aboriginal title case (launched in 2002), as well as the related reconciliation negotiations – which have resulted in innovative interim agreements with British Columbia and Canada – and other litigation such as that challenging the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
Terri-Lynn has published widely and lectures internationally in aboriginal law. In the past she served as founding Executive Director of the national charity EAGLE (Environmental-Aboriginal Guardianship through Law and Education), as an Advisory Council member for the Vancouver Foundation’s Environment Program, as a juror for the Ecotrust (US) Buffet Award for Indigenous Leadership, on the board of Ecotrust Canada and Earthlife Canada Foundation (Gowgaia Institute). Terri-Lynn is currently a board member of the Haida Gwaii Singers Society and an Honourary Director of the national environmental charity Ecojustice. In 2014 she received West Coast Environmental Law People’s Choice Andrew Thompson Award for environmental advocacy.
She has a lifelong devotion to perpetuating Haida culture, including illustrating a children’s book, sharing traditional dance and songs with Rainbow Creek Dancers, and recording for film and television. She is a multiple award winning singer for her work with Haida Gwaii Singers Society and Raven Calling Productions, including the “Keepers of Traditions” Award from the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards (CAMA”) for her lifetime contributions to Haida musical traditions, the “Best Female Traditional/Cultural Roots Album” CAMA for her CD “Lalaxaaygans: Beautiful Sound”, and “Best Female Artist” CAMA for her CD “New Journeys”.