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

Photo from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art 
                                Dr. David Hassan Sleem stands on the front porch of his large Seward home in 1906.
The multitalented D.H. Sleem, Part two

Syrian-born David Hassan Sleem settled in Seward in 1903.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: So sayeth the almanac 2020

Once again, the summer has rocketed by and we find ourselves on the precipice of the autumn equinox.

File
Minister’s Message: Being trustworthy in troubled times

Many people have forgotten that the source of our American values and virtues is the Bible.

The cast and crew of “Knife Skills” poses for a photo at Pier One Theatre during a recording session in August in Homer, Alaska. From left to right are Peter Sheppard, Theodore Castellani, Chloë Pleznac, Joshua Krohn (sitting, at sound board), Darrel Oliver, Helen-Thea Marcus and Ingrid Harrald. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Schneider)
KBBI broadcasts new radio play on Friday

‘Knife Skills’ was written and directed by Homer playwright Lindsey Schneider

Squash from my neighborhood farmers market will be roasted into a sheet pan dinner, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Lazy fall days

Farmers markets keep your hard-earned dollars within your community.

Anchorage Museum of History and Art
                                Dr. David Hassan Sleem stands on the front porch of his large Seward home in 1906.
The multitalented D.H. Sleem, Part one

Most people, if they have heard of D.H. Sleem at all, know the name because of his Alaska maps.

The Bayside Buskers perform from noon-1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Land’s End Resort in Homer, Alaska, as part of the Alaska World Arts Festival. (Photo by Aaron Christ)
Alaska World Arts Festival returns

For 2020, most of the festival will be virtual — and sometimes live

Low-bush cranberries are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
                                Low-bush cranberries are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Cranberry conundrum

I have enough cranberries to try multiple recipes. So I will.

Most Read