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Art Native American

Tsimshian Treasures

The Remarkable Journey of the Dundas Collection

by (author) Donald Ellis

contributions by Stephen Brown, Sarah Milroy, Allan Hoover & Bill Hom

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Jul 2007
Native American, Canadian
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2007
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 13
  • Grade: 8


This stunning catalogue celebrates the remarkable return of 36 masterpieces of Tsimshian art collected in northern British Columbia more than 40 years ago.

In October 1863, Reverend Robert J. Dundas of Scotland purchased eighty "ceremonial objects" that missionary William Duncan of Old Metlakatla (near Prince Rupert) had acquired from the local Natives. The collection, including carved clubs, masks, rattles and headdresses, remained in the Dundas family until October 2006, when it was put on the block at auction in New York and sold for over $7 million.

This sumptuous book features fifty full-colour plates and four essays on these masterworks of Northwest Coast art, all honouring an extraordinary moment in Canadian cultural history.

About the authors

Donald Ellis, a major dealer in historical North American Indian art, helped to return a major portion of the Dundas Collection to Canada and has played the lead role in organizing the subsequent exhibition. He heads the Donald Ellis Gallery in Dundas, Ontario.

Donald Ellis' profile page

Steven Brown has been a student of Northwest Coast Native cultures since the mid-1960s and is a former curator at the Seattle Art Museum. He lives in Sequim, Washington.

Stephen Brown's profile page

Sarah Milroy is a Toronto writer and art critic. She served as editor and publisher of Canadian Art magazine (1991-96) and as art critic of the Globe and Mail (2001-10). Milroy has contributed to publications on the work of Gathie Falk, Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe and Fred Herzog, and is a regular contributor to Canadian Art, Border Crossings and The Walrus.

Sarah Milroy's profile page

Allan Hoover is a former curator and manager at the Royal BC Museum, where he worked for more than thirty years. He lives in Victoria, BC.

Allan Hoover's profile page

Bill Holm, artist and teacher, is a leading authority on the art and customs of Northwest Coast Indians. He has held the positions of curator emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum, and professor emeritus of art history at the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Bill Hom's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"'It is like a time capsule has been found and we have just opened it,' says the Tsimshian weaver, William White, in writing about the repatriated Dundas Collection. 'What was found inside is a part of Tsimshian identity that was taken away but has found its way home after a long absence. The frustrations of many have been expressed in various statements. Why was this stuff allowed to be sold at auction when it was simply taken from us? It should be given back to the Tsimshian people.'"

Ottawa Citizen

"Tsimshian Treasures...correctly delves into the sad and long history of the attempts of the Tsimshian to bring these treasures and artifacts home. Tellingly the collection has the moniker of its longtime custodian, Dundas, not that of the original creators of these magnificent pieces of native Canadian history. Art is such a significant part of culture. Following the history of the important works is a wonderful catalog of the items beautifully photographed and explained."

International Art Treasures Online Magazine

Librarian Reviews

Tsimshian Treasures: The Remarkable Journey of the Dundas Collection

In October 1863 Reverend Robert J. Dundas of Scotland purchased eighty “ceremonial objects” from missionary William Duncan at Old Metlakatla (near Prince Rupert). For 140 years the Tsimshian objects remained in the Dundas family before going up for auction in New York in 2006. Tsimshian Treasures tells the story of the Dundas Collection and how thirty-six of the artifacts, including clubs, masks, rattles, headdresses, and bowls and dishes, made their way back to Canada. This stunningly beautiful book includes seventy-two full-colour plates and detailed descriptions, and essays explaining the importance of the collection in preserving the history of the Tsimshian.

Ellis is a dealer in North American Aboriginal art.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.

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