From Reconnaissance to Repatriation: Lucy Bell's reflections on the work of Dr. George MacDonald and Bill Reid

By: Bill Reid Gallery

Join the Bill Reid Centre’s 2023 Visiting Fellow, Sdahl Ḵ’awaas, Lucy Bell, PhD (ABD) of the Haida Nation as she reflects on Tla Yahda – Making it right. Perspectives on preserving and practicing Indigenous heritage can evolve over time. By researching, showcasing, and creating Haida art, Dr. George MacDonald and renowned Haida artist Bill Reid played significant roles in raising awareness and respect for Haida art and heritage. They also believed they were making things right in their attempts to “salvage” the past. Click here to register to the event.

The Haida Repatriation Committee, co-founded by Sdahl Ḵ’awaas, Lucy Bell, strives to make things right too. For the past 30 years, the Committee has repatriated hundreds of Ancestral remains and belongings back to Haida Gwaii.

As Lucy reflects on the 12,000 Haida belongings in museums and the generations of Haida change-makers, she must also recognize the historical context in which George MacDonald and Bill Reid lived and worked, as well as acknowledge the changing perspectives, actions and priorities of the Haida. This work helps bridge the gap between past actions and present reconciliation efforts, ultimately contributing to a more respectful and inclusive approach to museum practices and Indigenous rights.

Haida/Canadian artist, Bill Reid (1920-1998) is highly acclaimed and continues to be influential, having profoundly changed the way Indigenous art is produced and received. Through his art practice, advocacy, and writing, Reid had an immeasurable impact on the resurgence of Indigenous arts and its public reception. His legacy continues to stimulate academic and public discourse while facilitating understanding and respect for Indigenous Peoples.

The BRC Visiting Fellowship honours Bill Reid’s legacy by providing an opportunity for the SFU community and the broader public to engage with artists, cultural experts, students, and established scholars whose work address artistic, cultural, philosophical, and political topics impacting Indigenous peoples today. The intent is to support the fellow’s long-term practice, while simultaneously contributing to thought-provoking discussions among students, peers, faculty, and the public.

A key component to the fellowship, the BRC Visiting Fellow Lecture, brings the Fellow’s knowledge and experience to the fore as they share their expertise in a public setting. Held at the Bill Reid Gallery for Northwest Coast Art, this free public event acknowledges and celebrates Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing as integral components of contemporary educational institutions.

This event is free, but donations to the Bill Reid Gallery for Northwest Coast Art are encouraged at the door. If you would like to support the Bill Reid Centre Visiting Fellow Initiative, you can donate directly to the BRC online, or by contacting FASS Advancement.

Click here to register to the event.


About the Speaker

Sdahl Ḵ’awaas, Lucy Bell, PhD (ABD) belongs to the Tsiits G’itanee Eagle clan of the Haida Nation. She is a Nation-based scholar and a PhD candidate at SFU, studying Haida museology and repatriation as acts of reconciliation. She is the recipient of the 2021 Sterling Prize for Controversy and the BC Museums Association’s Museum Stewardship Award for speaking out against racism at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM) and the need for change in the museum sector. Lucy is also a Distinguished UVIC Alumna, where she received a MA in language revitalization and a cultural resource management certificate.