Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Couple donates basket by master weaver to SHI

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Piece to be made available to students, researchers

March 26, 2018

Byron and Toni Mallott of Juneau have donated a basket made by master Haida weaver Delores Churchill to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) for its ethnographic collection.

The basket, named “Half Head of Salmon Berry,” is an exquisite piece made of red cedar bark, grass and alder-dyed cedar bark and valued at $3,000. The Mallotts purchased the piece at SHI’s Tináa Art Auction in 2017 and gave it to SHI because of the institute’s robust education program that allows Northwest Coast students and researchers to study its pieces. The quality of care the basket will receive was also important to them.

“Sealaska Heritage has a state-of-the-art facility where collections are cared for to the highest standards,” said Byron Mallott, who is the clan leader of the Tlingit Raven Kwáashk’i Kwáan Clan and Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor. “It was important to us that a piece of this caliber would be available to students for many, many decades to come.”

SHI President Rosita Worl called the donation a blessing.

“Delores is known throughout the world as a weaving teacher and a master of the art form,” Worl said. “We at SHI think so highly of her that our artist-in-residence space was named in her honor. We are incredibly grateful to the Mallotts for their generosity.”

The Mallotts donated the basket in memory of Clarence and Gertrude Louise (Lidda) Jackson of Kake. Clarence, who passed away in 2013, was Tlingit/Eagle of the Tsaagweidí (Killerwhale) Clan. Clarence adopted Toni Mallott, who is Athabaskan, into the Tsaagweidí Clan.

The basket is a mini-masterpiece of complex design employing a double-warp of red cedar on the sides, a weft of yellow cedar, and a uniquely Haida weave between the two warps called ”spiraling like a sea shell.” The diamond pattern on the upper portion is called “half-head of the salmonberry.”  Her use of natural dyes on lighter material is also evident in the piece, the alder-dyed yellow cedar creating a striking contrast to the natural cedar bark.

Churchill has dedicated her life to the revitalization and continued teaching of traditional basket weaving in the Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit styles. A versatile and highly-skilled artist, she is also known for her fine Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving. Born in Masset on Haida Gwaii, Delores was taught to weave by her mother, Selina Peratrovich. Delores has traveled all over the world to view and study the techniques of old masters and has been instrumental in the revival of spruce-root weaving in Southeast Alaska. Churchill, through her study of an ancient hat found in a melting glacier between Alaska and Canada near the remains of an indigenous man in 1999, rediscovered a weaving technique that had been lost and was not known by contemporary artists. She has since reintroduced the technique.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,


Caption: “Half Head of Salmon Berry” basket by Delores Churchill. Photo by Brian Wallace.

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