Tattooing may not seem as traditional as other forms of coastal artwork but, in fact, it goes back generations among ancient coastal peoples. Jones says that the practice among the Haida faded out a century or so ago with the arrival of missionaries who frowned on the practice.
The generation of her great-grandparents would have been the last to receive traditional tattoos, which formed part of the potlatch banned by the Canadian government in 1885.
Just as remarkable is the fact that a white man — Bart Willis, an Alberta-born tattoo artist now based in Austin, Tex. — is at the centre of this cultural reawakening. “It’s like an invisible hand has been guiding me,” the 47-year-old owner of Southside Tattoo said in an interview during a visit to Vancouver. “ I never saw any of this coming.”