Gwaai Edenshaw (Hluugiitgaa) is an Eagle from the Ts’aalth clan. He was born in 1977 to Jenny Nelson, an author and teacher, and Guujaaw, a drummer, carver and former president of the Council for the Haida Nation.
Gwaai, as a baby, hung from a pole in Skidegate in his Jolly Jumper while his father carved. Since then, his experience in creating art has ranged from comic book drawing, to totem pole carving, to creating gold, silver and argillite jewelry.
The late Bill Reid began mentoring and training him in the traditional forms of Haida art when Gwaai was sixteen. At the age of nineteen, Gwaai worked on his first totem pole under his father, Guujaaw. It was a forty-footer, which now stands in Indonesia. Since then, he has worked on three additional poles with his father.
In 2002, Gwaai assisted Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas with his graphic novel, “A Tale of Two Shamans.” This experience nurtured a penchant for more experimental themes in Haida art.
As a graduate of Vancouver Community College, Gwaai studied Jewelry Art and Design. Casting was of particular interest to him and remains his preferred medium to this day. His works boast a refined and delicate design, complemented with Abalone shell embellishment. His miniature scale jewelry pieces are delicate and intricate, exemplifying his attention to detail.
In the last few years, Gwaai has branched out to film and co-directed on ‘Edge of the Knife’ – the first feature film to tell a story about the Haida people set in the 19th century and performed entirely in the Haida language. It premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Gwaai is also one of the founding members of the Q’altsi’da Kaa players, who are currently engaged in their inaugural project, “Sounding Gambling Sticks,” a play to be performed entirely in the Haida language. He currently lives on Vancouver Island.