Delores E. Churchill is a Native American artist of Haida descent. She is a weaver of baskets, hats, robes, and other regalia, as well as leading revitalization efforts for Haida, her native language.
Churchill was born in Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada. As a girl, she attended schools that forced her to speak English in place of her native tongue, a typical practice of that time period. She first studied traditional Haida weaving with her mother, Selina Peratrovich, who is also a nationally recognized master weaver. She went on to study traditional Tsimshian weaving from masters Flora Matthew and Brenda White. After retiring from a bookkeeping career and raising her family, Churchill turned her attention back to basketry at a time when Haida basket weaving was in serious decline as an art form among younger members of the tribe.
Churchill is known for her utilitarian and ceremonial objects that often use spruce root, cedar bark, wool, and natural dyes. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Heritage Fellowship Award bestowed upon her by the National Endowment for the Arts. Some of her artwork is displayed at the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska, where she has also taught courses in basketry.
Efforts To Revitalize The Haida Language
As one of the few remaining native speakers of Haida, Churchill has been attempting to maintain her linguistic heritage. This has been difficult for her, however, as her native tongue has been largely suppressed and supplanted with English. Like many Native Americans of her generation, Churchill was forced by her teachers in the Canadian residential school she attended as a child to speak English and was punished for speaking her native language. These schools, and their American equivalents were part of the Government's attempt to integrate Natives into the mainstream white culture. Many Native families also believed that sending their children to schools such as these would help them be more successful, at the cost of their language and culture. Despite these difficulties, Churchill has remained adamant in her need to preserve her native language and frequently works with Haida children, as well as assisting the revitalization efforts of her daughter, April.
- Delores Churchill. Kenai River Council on The Arts. 2003 (retrieved 5 Nov 2009)
- Folk Arts | Master Artist | Delores Churchill