Evelyn Vanderhoop’s masterful weaving brings First Nations stories to life 

Photo: Evelyn Vanderhoop, 2019 Award of Distinction

Haida weaver Evelyn Vanderhoop is an artist, cultural ambassador, and a keeper of traditional knowledge. In 2020, Evelyn was recognized with the First Nations Art Award of Distinction for her lifetime of achievement as an accomplished weaver. 

Born in Masset, BC, Evelyn learned the art of weaving at an early age from her grandmother, Selina Peratrovich and her mother, Delores Churchill who were both skilled weavers. She also studied weaving with Cheryl Samuel who helped resume the lost practice of Chilkat weaving in the 1980’s. 

Evelyn was inspired by her mother’s weaving in the Naaxiin (more commonly called Chilkat) tradition. “There are lots of masters in my family; both my sisters, my mother, my grandmother. Watching my mother doing these beautiful geometric weavings just inspired me to learn more.” 

Evelyn studied the origin of this weaving technique by reading journals of the early explorers and their accounts of the first contact with the Haida as well as learning from the stories of her ancestors. She studied the old robes in museums around the world and learned their complexities. Evelyn mastered the art of Naaxiin technique where weaving not only moves across horizontally, but vertically as well, creating curves, slopes and circles with multiple braids enclosing the formline shapes. 

Photo: 2019 Award of Distinction for Lifetime Achievement, Evelyn Vanderhoop

Evelyn’s dedication to preserving First Nations history and stories is evident in her weaving. She believes that every basket, every design, and every stitch tells a story. She weaves stories of her ancestors, the Haida people, and their connection to the land and sea. Her work serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the Haida people. Evelyn’s latest creation, the Diving Whale Robe entails a laborious process and took her two years to weave. 

In addition to her weaving, Evelyn also teaches and shares her knowledge with others. She has held workshops and demonstrations at museums and galleries across Canada and the United States. 

Evelyn has had successful parallel careers as a weaver and watercolour artist. She studied watercolour painting in Europe, and one of her paintings was used as a reference for a postage stamp by the United States Postal Service to commemorate Native American dance. She has also been chosen as an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  

Evelyn’s influence extends beyond her art and workshops to her daughters, weavers and artists in their own right. They have been inspired by their mother’s dedication to preserving Haida culture and have followed in her footsteps. Together, the three women have created collaborative pieces that showcase their unique styles and shared cultural heritage. 

Evelyn is passionate about preserving and promoting Haida traditions and stories and has played an influential role in passing these down to future generations. “The audience is the Haida people. I want them to know that this art – that is our art.” Watch her short film and find out more about this inspiring artist. 

The First Nations Art Award program opens for nominations on June 1, 2023. 

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