Charles Edenshaw ~ Haida Gwaii

Published on November 10, 2012 by Amy

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Charles Edenshaw
Charles Edenshaw

Charles Edenshaw (ca. 1839–1920) was a Haida artist from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. He is known for his woodcarving, argillite carving, jewellery, and painting.

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Edensew (the name also spelled Edensaw, or Edenso from the Haida chiefly name Idɨnsaw) was born at the Haida village of Skidegate, on Haida Gwaii, located 27 miles off of the coast of British Columbia Canada. His father was K’łajangk’una of the Nikwən Qiwe lineage of the Raven moiety. His mother, whose lineage identity he followed in the Haida matrilineal system, was Qawkúna (later Mrs. John Robson) of the Eagle moiety’s Sdəłdás lineage, of which Charles eventually became chief. He spent his early years at Kiusta and Yatza in the northwestern Charlottes. His Haida name was Da.a xiigang or Tahaygen, alternatively spelled Tahayren and Tahayghen. He learned from his uncle, the Eagle chief Albert Edward Edenshaw. In 1884 he was baptised with his English name, which derived from Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In addition to the chiefly name Idɨnsaw, he also held the titles Skɨl’wxan jas (“Fairies Coming to You as in a Big Wave”), Dahʼégɨn (“Noise in the Housepit”), Nəngkwigetklałs (“They Gave Ten Potlatches for Him”).


He produced many commissioned works, including for the American Museum of Natural History. His work is in many museum collections, and he served as consultant to many anthropologists. His works include bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, totem poles, and staffs, and he worked in wood, argillite, gold, and silver. His work was collected by the anthropologists Franz Boas and John R. Swanton.

He is specifically credited for advancing gold and silver engraving in traditional formline design.


Edenshaw’s marriage to Isabella Edenshaw (Yahgujanaas) was part of a long pattern of intermarriage between these two prominent Haida lineages. Together they parented four daughters (in chronological order), Emily (White), Agnus (Yeltatzie), Florence (Davidson), and Nora (Cogo).

Through his daughter Emily, Edenshaw is great-grandfather to the contemporary artists Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Jim Hart and Lisa Hageman Yahgulanaas. Edenshaw’s daughter was the matriarch Florence Davidson, and, through Davidson, he is great-grandfather to her grandchildren, the artists Reg Davidson, Robert Davidson, and Isabel Rorick.

Source: wikipedia Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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