Freda Diesing

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Freda Diesing
Born Marie Alfreda Johnson[1]
(1925-02-06)6 February 1925
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Died 12 April 2002(2002-04-12)
Nationality Haida Nation
Education Vancouver School of Art, Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art
Known for woodcarver, totem carver
Movement Northwest Coast art

Freda Diesing (2 June 1925 – 4 December2002) was one of very few female carvers of Northwest Coast totem poles and a member of the Council of the Haida Nation of British Columbia, Canada. Her Haida name is Skil Kew Wat, meaning "magical little woman."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born in Prince Rupert, B.C., on 2 June 1925. She studied at the Vancouver School of Art[1] and was one of the first students at the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art ('Ksan) at Hazelton, B.C., in Gitksan territory. There she received instruction from the art historian Bill Holm, and the First Nations artists Tony Hunt (Kwakwaka'wakw) and Robert Davidson (Haida).[1]


Diesing did not begin her carving career until she was 42 years old.[1] She carved masks and bowls as well as totem poles. She was part of the major revival in Northwest Coast art in the 1960s.[1]

Her poles include two poles raised at the Tsimshian community of Kitsumkalum near Terrace, B.C., with the assistance of a Tsimshian team, a 1987 pole for the RCMP station in Terrace, and poles in Prince Rupert.

Legacy and awards[edit]

Her students include many of the most acclaimed artist working today, such as Dempsey Bob, Norman Tait, her nephew Don Yeomans, and many others. She lived in Terrace in her later years, and can be credited with instructing numerous students throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Freda Diesing has received many honors and awards. She was recognized by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation who awarded her the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Winnipeg in March 2002. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northern British Columbia in May 2002.[1] In 2006, Northwest Community College created the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, located in Terrace, British Columbia and named in her honor.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Marie Alfreda "Freda" Johnson (1925–2002)." Northwest Community College. 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art." Northwest Community College. 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2012.


  • Macnair, Peter L., Alan L. Hoover, and Kevin Neary (1984) The Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art. Vancouver, B.C.: Douglas & McIntyre.
  • Stewart, Hilary (1993) Looking at Totem Poles. Vancouver, B.C.: Douglas & McIntyre.

External links[edit]