Exhibitions: Living Legacies: The Arts of the Americas

George Dickson: Model of a Haida House

Model of a Haida House, circa 1893. George Dickson (Haida, circa mid 19th–early 20th century), Skidegate Inlet, Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada. Wood, pigment. 05.589.7791, By exchange.

The Haida artist George Dickson made this model for exhibition at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He based it on the full-sized "House of Contentment" in Skidegate that was owned by his great-grandfather. The Haida people consider a house to be analogous to the skeleton of a collective ancestor, and the inhabitants are the spirit forces. The totem pole depicts ancestral crests that are "read" from the top down. In this example, the three Watchmen at the top wear high-crowned hats symbolizing the status of the chief, whom they protect and warn of approaching danger. The middle figure depicts a woman whose family regalia identifies her as a doctor. On the bottom, Wasco, a long-eared sea monster carries the fin whale Scanna on its back.