Doll depicting Eagle Chieftain by Shona-Hah (1912-1997)
Doll depicting Eagle Chieftain, c. 1980 by Shona-Hah (1912-1997) Carvings by Lelooska (1933-1996) wood, canvas, abalone shell, ermine, leather, horse hair, pigment 16" high x 11" wide x 7" deep
Shona-Hah (Mary Smith) was born in a black walnut log cabin in Oklahoma's old Cherokee Nation. There, she was given the name Shona-Hah, "gray dove". Her Kwakiutl name, Tl'alilhilugwa which means "whale rising," was bestowed in 1968 by Chief James Sewide, hereditary chief of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation on Vancouver Island
Shona-Hah's life bespeaks her Indian heritage. In her youth, she both trained horses and rode in races and exhibitions. As a small child, she began participating in the traditional dances and continued throughout her life. Always interested in all facets of Indian art, she exceled at beadwork, skin sewing, carving, painting, and doll making.
Her dolls are valued highly by private collectors and museums as illustrations of vanished cultures. They bring alive both ceremonial and every day events in the lives of the people of many different North American tribes. From the Osage of Oklahoma to the Kwakiutls of British Columbia, she draws on first-hand knowledge of the cultures and the memories of the Old Ones for her inspiration.
Shona-Hah's children credit her with their love and respect for Indian art and traditions. She taught them the skills she had acquired and sacrificed to help them become artists in their own right.
Shona-Hah is the mother of renowned artists Lelooska, Kwunkwa-dzi, Patty Fawn, and Tsungani. "She and our grandfather," Lelooska says, "imparted to us that which was to become the essence of our heritage."