Lisa Telford

Cat. no. 76. Lisa Telford. Haida, born 1957. PochaHaida, 2009. Cedar bark, cordage, cloth. 35 x 15 in. Burke Museum of Nature History and Culture, Cat. no. 2014-50/1. Photo by Richard Brown Photography/Burke Museum.


But I call it my thread to sanity because when I’m angry or something’s wrong, I pick up that basket because everything that’s in my mind disappears. Everything that I’m thinking about is gone. I don’t worry about my troubles, I don’t worry about my aches and pains, it all becomes relaxed. I’m just melting into my work, enjoying my time, and I could do it all day long.

[Speaking Haida] In my family, because I come from a long line of weavers, form follows function. That simply means that if you see a basket with a fish eye on it that that was always a clam basket or you could recognize a seaweed gathering basket, it was always used for only gathering seaweed. Form follows function. That was what I was always taught to believe. When you do cedar clothing, it’s always traditional. They didn’t make form fitting clothing. It was meant to keep you warm.

I got a call from somebody who said I know you do cedar clothing and I’d like to have a contemporary piece and I said well, I’m very traditional, I don’t know what that means. He had a couple suggestions and I kept shooting him down. I said let me think about it for a couple weeks and I’ll call you back. And I had just bought a dress form and it was in the living room and I’m thinking why did I get that dress form? Then it dawned on me, I’ll make a bustier, so that was my first piece.

My contemporary pieces were so well received, my mind just went insane. I started thinking of all these things, I started doing, you know, I could make a necktie out of cedar bark. I can make a bow tie. I can make this, I can make that. At that point, my mind was anything was possible and I’d always have dreams about dresses and I had one more stuck in my head.


Aajii hlgitgee “PochaHaida” hanuu kya’aang. Lisa Telford tlaawhlagan, aaljii Pocahontas gya hlgitgee giinaan aanaa. Ts’uu isgyaan sGaahlaan giid Telford ga xalgan, ‘waagyaan Gii hlGangulgan. Gin giid gya gyaangswee kuwee k’al ahl tl’ tlaawhlaagiinii, ahljii ahluu “faux fur” Telford gyaandagan. Nang Xaadaa jaad gin dah kwaan aajii ahluu aa. Xaadgeekwaan Pocahontas (Powhatan) ‘ll an ‘unsiidwaang. Awaahl Gagwii Powhatan k’ul jaad iijan, isgyaan‘ll kihlga Gaayaaga gud ‘ahl yaats’ Xaadgee. Gin hlGanguls gya Telford jaadgee gyaahlaangs ga hl suudaang, isgyaan Pochontas ‘ll yahgudang anaa.



Lisa Telford’s PochaHaida is a twist and commentary on the dress Pocahontas wears in the Disney movie of the same name. It is made of pounded red and yellow cedar bark that Telford gathered and processed herself. Customarily, cedar garments use sea otter fur; in this case, however, Telford opted for faux fur, for a “commercialized Haida woman.” Pocahontas (Powhatan) is a historical figure who has been romanticized in popular culture. In the early 1600s she served as a translator, ambassador, and leader for her people as they encountered and negotiated with European colonists. Telford’s work critiques the commercialization of images and stories of Native women and honors the power Pocahontas held in her community.