Tales of Ghosts
248 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
47 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Jul 2003
Release Date:21 Nov 2002
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Tales of Ghosts

First Nations Art in British Columbia, 1922-61

UBC Press

The years between 1922 and 1961, often referred to as the “Dark Ages of Northwest Coast art,” have largely been ignored by art historians, and dismissed as a period of artistic decline. Tales of Ghosts compellingly reclaims this era, arguing that it was instead a critical period during which the art played an important role in public discourses on the status of First Nations people in Canadian society.

Hawker’s insightful examination focuses on the complex functions that Northwest Coast objects, such as the ubiquitous totem pole, played during the period. He demonstrates how these objects asserted the integrity and meaningfulness of First Nations identities, while simultaneously resisting the intent and effects of assimilation enforced by the Canadian government’s denial of land claims, its ban of the potlatch, and its support of assimilationist education.

Those with an interest in First Nations and Canadian history and art history, anthropology, museology, and post-colonial studies will be delighted by the publication of this major contribution to their fields.

Ronald W. Hawker exposes and then considers the multiple ways in which meaning has been created and consumed around First Nations art objects by its viewing audiences. In so doing, he brings a new line to bear on the role Native art has played in the negotiation of social and geographical spaces in British Columbia. The book will interest scholars of Native studies, Canadian art history, anthropology, and cultural studies. Andrea N. Walsh, University of Toronto Quarterly, Winter 2004/05
Tales of Ghosts is an extremely important contribution to scholarship. It addresses the almost entirely ignored work of First Nations artists from 1922 to 1961 ... And demonstrates that the period heretofore considered one of decline was actually one of intense artistic productivity. The author situates this productivity into its social and political context. This has never been done, and represents a major shift in focus on how Northwest Coast art history is treated. Tales of Ghosts will become a major and influential scholarly work. Aldona Jonaitis, Director of the University of Alaska Museum and author of Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch
Tales of Ghosts addresses a major gap in our understanding of the historical dialogue between Euro-Canadian and First Nations communities and cultures ... It successfully extends current postcolonial debates to Canadian landmarks that are usually taken for granted and that have been overlooked by both anthropologists and art historians. There is no comparable publication on this material. Indeed, there is a great need for studies of this kind in the areas of Canadian historical and cultural studies. Gerta Moray, Professor of Fine Art, University of Guelph, and author of Unsettled Encounters: The Indian Pictures of Emily Carr
Ronald W. Hawker is an assistant professor, Department of Art and Design, Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.



1 Introduction

2 The Cranmer Potlatch and Indian Agent Halliday’s Display

3 Totem Poles in Stanley Park

4 Northwest Coast Art as National Heritage: Two Federal Projects of the Late 1920s

5 The New Deals: George Raley and Depression-era Reform in British Columbia

6 Alice Ravenhill and the BCIAWS

7 Mathias Joe, Mungo Martin, and George Clutesi: "Art" as Resistance

8 UBC, the BCPM, and the Totem Pole Carver Training Program

9 The Totem Pole Preservation Committee and the Case of the Gitanyow

10 Tales of Ghosts That Hover in the World Like Fading Smoke


A Map showing First Nations groups in British Columbia

B Chronology of First Nations art in British Columbia, 1921-61




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