Ron Peters's Reviews > The Magic Leaves: A History of Haida Argillite Carving

The Magic Leaves by Peter L. Macnair
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it was amazing
bookshelves: native-indian, art, history

A nicely illustrated book that describes works from the Royal British Columbia Museum. There are good descriptions of each artifact. Here’s a photo of a Haida motif panel pipe from their collection, which I took last year when I visited Victoria with one of my grandsons:

Argillite is a blackish carbonaceous shale, fine-grained and reasonably soft, which the Haida used and still use to make carvings. When visiting Hartley Bay, I was told that my grandfather Edmund Patelas traded for argillite from Haida Gwaii, ostensibly from Charles Edenshaw. This is possible – in 1900, for example, my grandfather would have been 20 and Edenshaw still had 20 years to live – but I have no idea how likely it is.

I always learn something new from these books, e.g., what I’d been told – that argillite is softer when first excavated then it slowly hardens – is only a common myth. I also wasn’t aware of the pre-contact use of locally cultivated tobacco by the Haida and Tlingit. The authors’ proposed classification of 15 types of Haida argillite carvings was also new to me.

You can typically see miniature totem poles, serving platters, and animal-form bowls still being made for the commercial trade today, but you don’t often see panel pipes. I’d love to own one. Are they too much work to carve? Here’s a small and shockingly pricey one from the Douglas Reynolds Gallery in Vancouver:

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Reading Progress

November 6, 2021 – Started Reading
November 6, 2021 – Shelved
November 6, 2021 – Shelved as: native-indian
November 6, 2021 – Shelved as: art
November 6, 2021 – Shelved as: history
November 7, 2021 –
page 55
November 8, 2021 –
page 100
November 9, 2021 –
page 160
November 9, 2021 – Finished Reading

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