A century after the birth of artist Bill Reid, an advocate of Haida culture also known by the Haida name Iljuwas, the Royal Canadian Mint is issuing a $2 circulation coin honouring his groundbreaking contributions to contemporary Indigenous art.
Born in Victoria, B.C., on Jan. 12, 1920, Reid was an “acclaimed master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer, broadcaster, mentor and community activist” throughout his life, according to a biography published by Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery, which is the country’s only public gallery dedicated to contemporary Indigenous art of the northwest coast. His father was born in the United States with Scottish-German roots, but through his Haida mother, Reid was a member of the K’aadasga Kiigawaay Raven Wolf Clan of T’aanuu. After beginning to explore his Haida roots at the age of 23, Reid worked to connect Indigenous people with other communities through his work as a broadcaster, jeweller and artist.
“The Mint is delighted to add the story of Bill Reid’s pivotal role in raising awareness of Haida art, and the traditions and culture it represents, to the long list of circulation coins celebrating what makes us proud to be Canadian,” said Mintmaster Marie Lemay, who’s the president and CEO of the Crown corporation.
“Millions of Canadians will experience the power and beauty of Bill Reid’s art as this coin finds its way to them in their change.”
The bold image of a grizzly bear – a favourite character of Reid’s paintings, carvings and jewelry – fills the reverse of the new commemorative coin, which was unveiled on the Mint’s YouTube channel today. To watch the unveiling video, click below.
CHAMPION OF HAIDA CULTURE
The artwork appearing on the 2020-dated $2 circulation coin, “100th Anniversary of the Birth of Bill Reid,” is known as Xhuwaji, Haida Grizzly Bear.
Reid painted it in 1988 on a ceremonial drum belonging to the Sam family, of Ahousat, B.C. He later adapted the design for reproduction on silkscreen prints, with proceeds benefitting the Artists for Kids Trust, which supports children’s art education in British Columbia through the sale of original prints created by professional artists.
“The greatest impact of my grandfather’s artistic legacy is that he reintroduced our Haida art in a classical form to the world, and through that, bridged cultures,” said Reid’s granddaughter Nika Collison, a singer, drummer, weaver and carver who also serves as the executive director of the Haida Gwaii Museum.
“This coin is a gorgeous tribute to Bill,” added Collison, who also authored the 2004 book, Bill Reid and Beyond: Expanding on Modern Native Art. “It represents the high esthetic standards that he believed in. We thank the Canadian Mint and we say ‘Hawaa’ to the Royal Canadian Mint for honouring him this way.”
The Bill Reid Gallery divides Reid’s career into three phases, including:
- a “pre-Haida” period from 1948-51, when Reid lived in Toronto;
- a Haida period from 1952-67, when he returned to Vancouver; and
- a “Beyond Haida” period from 1968-98, when he was living in London, Montreal and Vancouver.
In 2004, the Bank of Canada featured four of Reid’s artworks – The Raven and the First Men, Haida Grizzly Bear, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii and Mythic Messengers – on the $20 banknote issued as part of the Canadian Journey series.
The $2 circulation coin is limited to a mintage of three million coins, two million of which will feature Xhuwaji, Haida Grizzly Bear in the bold red and black colours of Haida artistic tradition (with the remaining one million uncoloured).
Now in general circulation, the coin will reach Canadians through their change as bank branches and businesses replenish their inventories of $2 coins.
Both the coloured and uncoloured circulation coins can be purchased together as part of a six-piece “Collector Keepsake” set. They are packaged in an illustrated collector card containing one of each currently circulating coin, ranging in denomination from five cents to $1.
Other collectibles adding to the celebration of Reid’s legacy include:
- special wrap rolls of 25 $2 circulation coins in coloured and uncoloured versions;
- a one-ounce Fine silver coloured version of the circulation coin design with a mintage of 7,500; and
- a one-ounce pure gold engraved version of Reid’s grizzly bear with a mintage of 400.
These collectibles can be ordered beginning today via 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the United States or online at mint.ca/billreid. The coins are also available at the Mint’s recently reopened Winnipeg boutique plus its global network of dealers and distributors, including participating Canada Post outlets.
Reid died on March 13, 1998, and his ashes were interred in July at T’aanuu, his grandmother’s village on Haida Gwaii.