Henry Venn Robertson
Kemano / Kitlope Nation
(1934 – 2016)
Born on May 27, 1934, Henry Venn Robertson began carving at the age of 10 under the direction of his father, carver Gordon Robertson. Henry’s traditional name was Ga-ba-baawk, which means Ten Ravens in English. A member of the Raven Clan, Ten Ravens grew up in the amalgamated village of Kemano-Kitlope and received his name from his mother’s father in a potlach ceremony held at Metlakatla. Ten Ravens’ first attempt at wood carving was when his father passed him a piece of wood and a knife, instructing him to carve a miniature totem pole.
Through his life, Ten Ravens pursued many areas of industry including logging, fishing, and railway construction. In 1976 an opportunity to share his culture with First Nations students in the Terrace School system arose and he began teaching an enthusiastic group the ancient arts and culture of his people.
In the many years that Ten Ravens has been carving wood, argillite and soap stone, he had many exhibitions in galleries throughout Canada and the U.S. Although Ten Ravens produced many smaller carvings, smaller totems and feasting bowls, he especially enjoyed carving large, full-scale totem poles. He had the honor of carving a totem pole for his own people that is now with the Indian Friendship Centre in Vancouver, as well as carving a miniature totem for the late Emperor Hirohito of Japan. For the past two years Ten Ravens had also been responsible for the presentation of the Aboriginal Pavilion located at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, B.C.
In 1999, the Kitamaat Village Council invited Ecotrust Canada to help the Haisla repatriate the G’psgoalux pole. Master carver Henry Robertson, his nephews and granddaughter were enlisted to carve two new poles – one destined to stand in Stockholm’s National Museum of Ethnography in place of the original, and the second to stand again at Misk’usa. In August 2000, more than two hundred guests of the Haisla Nation joined there to witness the pole being raised in fulfillment of G’psgoalux’s spirit vision.
Ten Ravens had the pleasure of teaching his four nephews, Lyle, Derek, Gary, and Barry Wilson, passing on age-old techniques and sharing the legacy of the culture. he continued to take interested First Nations artists under his wing. With the distinctive, refined method of carving and his fervor for the culture, Ten Ravens’ work will continue to flourish and be sought, both nationally and internationally.