Argillite Totem depicting Potlatch Bear with Salmon by Clarence Mills, Haida
Totem depicting Potlatch Bear with Salmon by Clarence Mills, Haida First Nation argillite 7.5" high x 2" wide x 2" deep
The Bear is a symbol for power, courage, physical strength and leadership. Warriors are known to wear bear claw necklaces which meant protection. In Haida culture, the Bear is referred to as "Elder Kinsman" and is treated like a high ranking guest. In this argillite carving of bear, the rings on top of his head are called potlatch rings, and represent the number of potlatches (ceremonies) held by the host clan, or in this case, the carvers clan.
Clarence Mills is a member of the Haida nation, a group that inhabits the northern coast of British Columbia. Born into the Wilson family at Skidegate, Queen Charlotte Islands in 1958, he is a member of the Eagle Clan and takes the Split Raven and Grizzly Bear as his crests. His grandfather, Jimmy Wilson, was hereditary Chief Skedans. His great-grandfather, carver Henry Young, gave him his Haida name – Gahghinskuss, meaning ‘out of your own land’.
With guidance from his uncle, Doug Wilson, Clarence began studying traditional Haida art at the age of eighteen. He has since produced carvings in ivory, argillite and wood, including monumental-size totem poles for international events, as well as engraved jewelry and limited-edition serigraph prints. Clarence incorporates the traditional designs of his people with a contemporary feel. He is well known for his simplistic and distinctive style that reflects traditional Haida images.
Over the past 20 years, Clarence has established himself in Canada, the United States and Europe. Of note, Clarence carved a full size pole for the Louvre in France, where he met the French Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, at the pole’s raising.