Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas shared a new watercolour painting of two sisters on Monday, July 13, 2020 that he says is “very much connected to the events that are unfolding in Naden Harbour.” (Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas/Submitted photo)

New Yahgulanaas art connected to Naden Harbour conflict

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas watercolour painting partly inspired by Haida matriarchs

New art by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas was partly inspired by G̲aandlee Guu Jaalang, the group led by matriarchs that has been “occupying” two ancient villages on the islands after two fishing lodges reopened without Haida consent.

Yahgulanaas shared an image of the watercolour painting online earlier this month, along with the text: “The presence and power of two sisters is moving across the land and waters.”

The painting makes use of Yahgulanaas’ renowned Haida manga style in depicting two Indigenous girls in motion. One of the two sisters keeps her foot grounded on the earth as they reach out toward the ocean and beyond, holding hands.

“They’re engaged in the world, they’re linked to the ocean and they’re united,” the artist told the Observer by phone, adding that together, they “create a team, a sense of unity.”

In terms of the political moment, he confirmed the painting is “very much connected to the events that are unfolding in Naden Harbour.”

The harbour on the north coast of Graham Island is where the Queen Charlotte Lodge reopened on July 10 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, against the wishes of the Council of the Haida Nation.

The day before the luxury fishing resort reopened, G̲aandlee Guu Jaalang, the daughters of the rivers, announced they would be “occupying” the ancient villages of Kung and Sk’aawats in the vicinity, as well as fishing in their ancestral waters.

The week after that, the matriarchs alleged they were “put in danger” by boats from the Queen Charlotte Lodge, and released video of an encounter that is now being investigated by the RCMP.

ALSO READ: RCMP investigating after Haida matriarchs say they were ‘put in danger’ by fishing lodge

Two sisters are a symbol of peace, Yahgulanaas said, and he is hoping there will be a peaceful solution to the conflict happening in the harbour.

“We need to have faith that that will come about,” he said. “The situation is redeemable, but not by being arrogant. That kind of male energy just leads to back and forth.

“I can only hope that the Queen Charlotte Lodge will stand down and figure this out.”

ALSO READ: New toonie honours work of Haida artist Bill Reid

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