Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Platter (qwa.a. qiihlaa)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Platter (qwa.a. qiihlaa)

ca. 1885

Charles Edenshaw

First Nations, Haida, 1839 - 1920

Argillite is a black carbonaceous shale found exclusively in a quarry near Slatechuck Creek, close to Skidegate in Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). Haida artists like Charles Edensaw (da.a xiigang) have been carving argillite for more than two hundred years. Access to the quarry is allowed only to the Haida, and artists are taught never to sell a piece of raw, uncarved argillite to an outsider. Carved argillite, however, has always been created for sale. Argillite carving developed into the first tourist art on the Northwest coast. In the late nineteenth century, argillite carvers began to shape model poles, chests, and houses and Haida figural groups and platters such as this one. At the same time that traditional practices were banned and missionaries arrived, Haida artists created works of art illustrating traditional myths for sale to outsiders and as museum commissions.
2 1/4 x 12 15/16 in. (5.7 x 32.9 cm)
Gift of John H. Hauberg
Provenance: Sotheby's; donated to Seattle Art Museum by John H. Hauberg
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view

Argillite is quite a delicate stone. Especially when it's finely carved. It should be treated like a fine piece of China.

Christian White, 2006

View a Map of Haida Territory

Map of Northwest Coast, showing Haida territory
© Seattle Art Museum

Argillite Works by Other Artists in SAM's Collection

Argillite Pipe, 1830-1840, Haida, 70.57
Snapshot taken by Paul Macapia.
Covered Box, n.d., Haida, 81.17.1304
Snapshot taken by Paul Macapia.
Pipe, n.d., Haida, 81.17.1305
Xahliidaa.u, ca. 1835-1855, Haida, 91.1.42
Argillite Model Totem Pole, ca. 1900-1920, Haida, 91.1.68
Argillite Platter, ca. 1885, Haida, 91.1.73
Argillite Pipe, ca. 1820, Haida, 91.1.143
Argillite model totem pole, n.d., Haida, 91.1.144

Carving Myths in Stone

This argillite platter is one of three platters in museum collections known to be carved by Charles Edensaw. Each platter depicts the same Haida myth. Edensaw often illustrated scenes from Raven stories, and in this episode Raven is involved in the sexing of human beings. Raven, in human form, wears a ringed hat and holds a spear at the front of the canoe. Fungus man is his steersman at the stern of the canoe. The sea monster below the canoe represents female genitalia in the form of chitons growing on rocks, which were speared and thrown on the all-male population to create females. The form of the platter is inspired by decorative plates and platters that were popular objects of display in the Victorian era.
Argillite platter, n.d., Haida, Queen Charlotte Islands
Photo: John Weinstein
© 2006 The Field Museum, #A114412_05d, Object number 17952


Christian White, Haida argillite carver and great-great grandson of Charles Edensaw, talks about working with argillite
Christian White on the work of argillite carvers that came before him
Christian White on argillite and trade


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Box of Daylight, Sept. 15, 1983 - Jan. 8, 1984.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Hauberg Collection - Parsons Gallery, Aug. 22, 1985 - Mar. 16, 1986.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Native Visions: Northwest Coast Art, 18th Century to the Present, Oct. 18, 1998 - Jan. 10, 1999.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Art Gallery, Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art, Mar. 1 - Sept. 17, 2006.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, Mar. 18 - May 30, 2022.
Published ReferencesSelected Works, Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, p. 74.

The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Native Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection, Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1995, p. 142.

Brown, Steven C., Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century, Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1998, p. 115.

Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures, London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 32.

Browne, Colin. Entering Time: The Fungus Man Platters of Charles Edenshaw. Vancouver, British Columbia: Talonbooks; p. 74, reproduced fig. 3.

Brotherton, Barbara. Robert Davidson: Abstract Impulse. Exh. Cat. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 2013-14; p. 18, reproduced fig. 4 [not in exhibition].

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM