In their Canadian homeland, the Tsimshians had been the carvers of huge house poles, dance screens, and ceremonial objects of all kinds, in an artistic tradition extending back hundreds if not thousands of years.  This came to an end in New Metlakatla, and for many years only small souvenir items were carved for the tourist trade; with little if any sign of  the traditional style.  The traditional ovoids and U-forms were not to be found in the Metlakatla souvenir poles of the early 20th Century.
     Though they are evidence of the loss of a great artistic tradition, these small poles represent a victory too; that they were made at all then, and still exist now.    And the descendants of the carvers have returned to the art of the past, studying it in museums and books, and have learned and re-created the traditional style, and brought it into the 20th and 21st centuries.  The poster below, for example, shows an elegant usage of the traditional form line style which had been missing from the earlier souvenier poles; and it is firmly rooted in the past with its depiction of the Tsimshian crests of Eagle, Wolf, Killer Whale, and Raven.  It also shows modern touches, in the realistic style of the fireweed (symbolic of Metlakatla) and in the overlapping of the Wolf's tongue and jawline.
     In addition, the artists of the contemporary generation have been active not only in the revival of NW Native art, but of the culture too; David Boxley (whose poster is shown above) and many others are deeply involved in reviving and transmitting traditional culture, performance, and potlatch.   

   Past artists who should be honored for their work in preserving Tsimshian culture include Edward Feak, who was known as a storyteller and keeper of the oral history, and Rev. Paul Mather, who worked to preserve Tsimshian language and singing in the schools.
By David Boxley
Full-size totem poles are once again being carved and erected in Metlakatla as elwewhere in the Northwest, and the dances and ceremonies are being revived and continued.     Once again, sons are learning from their fathers.   More contemporary photos to come.
Pole by David Boxley, Metlakatla
Ludildaalda Gi'Goahlm
Echoes of Our Past
Tsimshian Haayuuk and guests