Haida Argillite Carvings: A Tradition of Mastery and Detail


For about 200 years, the Haida people, indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, have carved intricate sculptures from argillite. This unique slate rock, found only on Slatechuck Mountain near Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, serves as the medium for their rich artistic expression, passed down through generations.

Bill Stevens’ Argillite Totem Pole

Haida artist Bill Stevens from Skidegate exemplifies this tradition with his argillite totem pole. Standing 10 inches high, 2.5 inches wide, and 3 inches deep, this totem pole features clean, sharp form lines that depict a raven, bear, and beaver. Although the totem pole has been sold, Stevens’ work continues to showcase his exceptional craftsmanship and cultural heritage.

The Craftsmanship of Haida Argillite Carvings

To create their masterpieces, Haida artists use a variety of tools, many handmade. They start with rough shaping and then refine the piece using finer cutting tools. To achieve a polished finish, they use fine abrasive materials to remove tool marks. Recently, artists have enhanced their carvings by incorporating inlay materials like ivory, bone, abalone shell, paua shell, and catlinite. This not only adds aesthetic appeal but also intricate details to their work.

The Legacy of Haida Argillite Carvers

As time progresses, contemporary Haida artists continue to inherit and practice the skills of their forebears. Specifically, villages like Masset and Skidegate consistently produce some of the finest argillite carvings, known for their detailed workmanship and cultural significance. Over the past 50 years, artists have created many remarkable sculptures, thereby enriching the legacy of Haida art.


In conclusion, Bill Stevens’ argillite totem pole, with its precise form lines and symbolic figures, exemplifies the high level of artistry achieved by Haida carvers. As this tradition thrives, the intricate and beautiful sculptures created by Haida artists remain highly valued for their cultural importance and artistic excellence.

For more information on Haida argillite carvings, you can explore resources such as Argillite Art of the Haida and Haida Argillite Carvings.

three figure argillite totem pole

Bill Stevens    Haida  

Totem pole – raven, bear & beaver

Argillite – 10 x 2.5 x 3 inches