Originating from the Gitxsan, the Chilkat robe is now created by the Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit and Gitxsan peoples. These robes made it to other nations via trade and marriage. The original robes were made from approximately 8 pounds of goat fur which was then hand rolled with cedar. This created a sturdy garment that would prove to last generation upon generation. Each robe can take about 9 months to 2.5 years to make. Today, the Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver number below 50 and this is an art that is at risk of becoming extinct.
There is no real definition as to how the artist came up with the forms in this art. I personally studied many robes to try to get a feel for the form and the flow of the art. This is the result. This is my homage to an art form that is so very beautiful and to the weavers of today who have taken on this lifelong journey.
This design is called Wihl Buun which is my ancestral name. This name was carried by my grandmother and many grandmothers before and was handed down to me. When I leave, this name will go to one of my daughters or granddaughters. Wihl Buun translates to the 'splash made by the whale's tail as it hits the surface of the ocean'.
The Killerwhale tribe can be found in the Gitxsan (though called Fireweed Clan), Nisga'a, Tsimshian, and Tlingit to name a few. The Killerwhale is a very important crest and mythic being to each group and is referenced in our stories and art. The Killerwhale is recognized as clan ancestors and reincarnated chiefs. They are associated with strength, dignity, prosperity, and longevity.
It is believed that Killerwhales inhabit ancient villages deep in the ocean and shed their black and white skins and live as humans there. When a chief dies, the Killerwhale will come close to shore to carry the chief's spirit.
Like the wolf, the Killerwhale are familial and are always seen in pods. The Killerwhale is also known as Protector of the Sea and Sea Wolf. This is why I have a 'watcher' in my killerwhales' dorsal fin and a wolf within its' body.
I love the Killerwhale and love the environment in which it lives. Love and Light.