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EDENSHAW, Isabella

Klukwan Village, Alaska, 1858?
, 1926
Biography synopsis
Isabella Edenshaw (K'woiyeng/Yahgujanaas/S'itkwuns) was a First Nations basket maker of the Haida clan and member of the Yakulanas (Raven) lineage. She was wed to painter and sculptor Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920) in a pre-arranged marriage; they had eleven children. In her artistic practice, Edenshaw would often weave baskets and hats, which her husband Charles Edenshaw would paint. Many of these collaborative works were later erronouesly attributed solely to Charles. Isabella Edenshaw worked with spruce roots, soaking them before weaving. Edenshaw wove baskets and hats all winter, after which she and her family sold throughout the Northwest Coast. The noted art collector Charles F. Newcombe gathered many of the Edenshaws' works. In 2006, The Edenshaw's works were exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the "Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art" exhibition. The 2010 exhibition "Signed Without Signature" at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver featured the Edenshaw's basketry and jewelry. Their baskets and hats are in the collections of the McCord Museum in Montreal, the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. Her daughter Florence Edenshaw Davidson (1896-1993) was also a well-known artist, and Edenshaw's great-granddaughter, Isabel Rorick (b. 1955), is a contemporary basket weaver.
Media used
Basket making
File & Archive locations
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Royal British Columbia Museum

Writings about
"An Aboriginal Presence: Isabella Edenshaw (1858-1926)." Canadian Museum of Civilization 2010
Blackman, Margaret B. During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, a Haida Woman. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992
Busby, Sharon. Spruce Root Basketry of the Haida and Tlingit. Seattle: Marquand Books, 2003
Chalker, Kari et al. Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest. Harry N. Abrams, 2004
Drew, Leslie & Wilson, Douglas. Argillite, Art of the Haida. Hancock House, 1980
Howard, Patricia L. Women & Plants: Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation. London, England: Zed Books, 2003
Laforet, A. Isabella Edenshaw's Basketry. Ottawa: National Museum of Man, 1985
MacDonald, George F. Haida Art. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996
MacDonald, George F. L'Art haïda. Hull, Québec: Musée canadien des civilisations, 1996
Malinowski, Sharon & Abrams, George H. Notable Native Americans. Gale Research, 1995
Mowat, Linda et al. Basketmakers: Meaning and Form in Native American Baskets. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, 1992
Newell, Dianne. Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993
Porter, Frank W. ed. The Art of Native American Basketry: A Living Legacy. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990
Ransom, Kelly Marie. Art as Negotiation: The Reciprocal Construction of Meanings in the Argillite Carvings of Charles Edenshaw. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1993
Rawlings, Irene. "Changing Faces." Art and Antiques 21.2 (Feb. 1998): 62-69
Seattle Art Museum. The Spirit Within. Seattle: Rizzoli, 1995
Steltzer, Ulli. A Haida Potlatch. Douglas & McIntyre, 1984
Thom, Ian M. Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2009
Turner, Nancy J. & Davidson, Florence Edenshaw et al. Plants of Haida Gwaii: Xaadaa Gwaay gud gina k'aws (Skidegate) - Xaadaa Gwaayee guu gin k'awa (Masset). Winlaw, British Columbia: Sono Nis Press, 2004
Vancouver Art Gallery. Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art. Vancouver: 2006
Whiting, Faith. What a Basket Holds. Langley Museum, 2002
Williams, Lucy Fowler. Guide to the Ethnographic Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2003
Williams, Lucy Fowler et al. Native American Voices on Identity, Art, and Culture: Objects of Everlasting Esteem. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005

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