Little is known about John Robson until the late 1860s when he succeeded his uncle as Chief Giatlins, a Raven lineage chief in Skidegate; at the same time he inherited Grizzly Bear's Mouth House, one of the most splendid buildings in the village. Robson was a noted carver of totem poles from the late 1860s until the custom of raising large poles fell into disfavour around 1885. He also produced many house models and works in argillite.
On this argillite platter made by John Robson is a design of Wasgo, or Sea Wolf, in bas-relief, and a Devilfish in full sculpture. The rim is inlaid with fish made of white bone.
A gift from Mrs. T. Wallwork to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1954.
CMC VII-B-1420 (S94-6821)
Robson married Qwa'Kuna, the widowed mother of Charles Edenshaw. Robson taught his stepson many carving skills and worked on a number of poles with him, which explains the points of similarity in their styles.
One fine example of the artistic collaboration between Charles Edenshaw and John Robson is an elaborately carved memorial pole in front of House Upon Which Storm Clouds Make a Noise in Skidegate. The top figure of a Whale is similar to the one on Chief Skidegate's interior pole. John Robson later made a model of it for John R. Swanton. The two carvers may also have worked together on a large mortuary post raised in 1879-80 by Chief Skidegate and his wife in honour of Chief Skedans.
date created: november 30, 1998 | Last Updated: April 1, 2010