Ricky Tagaban and Lily Hope display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony.

Ricky Tagaban and Lily Hope display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony.

Weavers celebrate new robe with first dance

The event is part of a resurgent trend for traditional weaving.

Lily Hope and Ricky Tagaban, two of Juneau’s preeminent Chilkat and Ravenstail-style weavers, celebrated the completion of a robe Monday night with its first dance, held at Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Shuká Hít clan house.

“The first dance event stemmed from my mother, Clarissa Rizal,” said Hope in a phone interview. “She taught me and Ricky to weave. In 2016, when she finished her 11th Northwest Coast textile. It was the first time she had had a dance for the release of a blanket.”

The first dance of a robe or other creation is to commemorate the journey of the weaver and blanket, Tagaban said. It’s becoming more regular to hold a first dance, something Hope plans to incorporate for everything she creates.

Ricky Tagaban and Lily Hope display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony.

Ricky Tagaban and Lily Hope display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony.

“She (Rizal) said “make sure you have them danced in public and acknowledged this way because this is the first time I have not been depressed when a blanket goes home,” Hope said, speaking of the first time Rizal held a first dance for one of her textiles. “Make sure you have first dance, and you as the weavers get to witness the first moves of the blanket.”

The ceremony includes songs of celebration accompanying the first dance itself, all steeped in the long tradition of the weavings, Tagaban said.

“Those pieces we make are connected to our lineage and the language,” Tagaban said. “We make time to follow that protocol. There are songs that are appropriate for those moments.”

Lily Hope and Ricky Tagaban display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony at the Sealaska Heritage Institute on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew)

Lily Hope and Ricky Tagaban display the robe they collaborated to weave at its First Dance ceremony at the Sealaska Heritage Institute on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew)

A resurgent style

The garment itself, a robe made for a private collector, was a collaborative effort between Hope and Tagaban. It took between 1,200 and 1,500 hours of work to make, Hope said.

“I likely will not let go of a blanket without doing a first dance event. I am going to adhere to that,” Hope said. “There’s a huge relief watching it Dance for the first time and being like, whew, it’s over.”

Tagaban concurred about the palpable relief he felt.

“Last night, (Monday) was the hardest I’ve slept in my life,” Tagaban said. “It wasn’t rough and it wasn’t heavy, not in a bad way. I could feel a lot of anticipation. There’s a lot of recognition that this doesn’t happen very often and it’s such a unique thing to our coast, this style of weaving. It feels good for sure, and I feel a ton of excitement about everything else I want to make.”

While there are very few daily weavers of Chilkat and Ravenstail style still operating, Hope said, holding fast to their traditions, rebuilding the infrastructure, and showing people whenever they can will help stoke the fires once more.

Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew                                Ricky Tagaban shows the woven artist signatures on the robe.

Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew Ricky Tagaban shows the woven artist signatures on the robe.

“It’s also an educational opportunity for people,” Hope said. “My long-term goal is for people across the world to know Chilkat and Ravenstail weavings as well as they know Navajo weavings.”

Hope and Tagaban both have big plans for the future. Hope has plans for the introduction of several new robes, which she plans to hold first dances for around the beginning of the physical Celebration honoring Southeast Alaska Native culture, which was rescheduled to next year in light of coronavirus concerns.

Tagaban mentioned that he plans to create a blanket for his family when he gathers the materials. Neither has any intention of slowing down.

“It’s really not dying. It’s not where it was hundreds of years ago,” Tagaban said. “We’re working to rebuild that infrastructure. There’s a pulse and we’ve got our finger on the pulse.”

For more information about the traditionally weaved robes and blankets, check out the Burke Museum. Hope and Tagaban’s sites are here.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew                                Lily Hope and Ricky Tagaban, two of Juneau’s preeminent Chilkat and Ravenstail-style weavers, celebrated the completion of a robe Monday in Juneau. The first dance honors the journey of the weavers and blanket. See Arts on Page A10

Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew Lily Hope and Ricky Tagaban, two of Juneau’s preeminent Chilkat and Ravenstail-style weavers, celebrated the completion of a robe Monday in Juneau. The first dance honors the journey of the weavers and blanket. See Arts on Page A10

Irene Lampe dances a robe for its First Dance ceremony at the Sealaska Heritage Institute on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew)

Irene Lampe dances a robe for its First Dance ceremony at the Sealaska Heritage Institute on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew)

More in Life

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Thanksgiving

We at least have a good idea of what our political future looks like.

This is Arthur Vernon Watson at age 39, when he was transferred from the federal prison in Atlanta to the penitentiary on Alcatraz Island near San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)
Justice wasn’t elementary: Watson, Part 3

Anchorage probation officer Roy V. Norquist was monitoring Arthur’s movements and reported that he was pleased with what he saw

Cranberry sauce made from scratch with hand-picked berries makes a special holiday treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Foraging with love and gratitude

Gathered and prepared by hand, cranberries brighten a Thanksgiving feast

File
Minister’s Message: When the going gets tough…

Suffering as a Christian is not always a popular preaching topic.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Image courtesy Marvel Studios)
On the Screen: ‘Wakanda Forever’ picks up the pieces

“Black Panther” sequel grapples with grief and hope after franchise loses its star

Oxtails are cooked with onions, garlic and daikon. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A bowl full of medicine

Oxtail soup makes a healing winter meal

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Ride on!

Later this month, I’ll turn 49

Arthur Vernon Watson was 23 years old when he was incarcerated in San Quentin state prison in California. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)
Justice wasn’t elementary, Watson, Part 1

The Frolichs’ establishment, then called the Watson Motel, had been owned by Arthur Vernon Watson and had become a crime scene

Korean red pepper paste adds heat to this Mapo tofu recipe. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A spicy meal to burn away the sadness

This hearty meal can be adjusted to be as mild or spicy as you wish

Nick Varney
Thanksgiving memories of the unhinged kind

Let’s take a first look at the oncoming day of feasting

The first snowfall of the year arrives in Kenai, Alaska, on Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Minister’s Message: Delight in the wonder of winter

Seemingly overnight, we’ve transitioned from our summer playground to our winter lives