Haisla Sound Installation

Lyle Wilson’s Exhibition, Paint

Project Director: Patricia A. Shaw
With sincere thanks to Colleen Leung, Sarah Ling, and Kaeleigh Hiebert for website implementation

A Haisla Vocabulary: Words to accompany the exhibition (Maple Ridge Art Gallery: May 5-July 28, 2012) and catalogue, Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson.

I know that what will particularly interest my people, the Haisla, is the inclusion of Haisla words in the titles of my works and in the essays… I am doing what I can to stave off the predicted extinction of the Haisla language.

Lyle Wilson. Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson. (2012: 5)

The Haisla language that permeates Lyle’s work, in multiple dimensions of inspiration and realization, is gathered together into a Glossary of 82 words at the end of the exhibit catalogue.

As Lyle says in reference to his painting ABC’s: Reconstituted: “The alphabet functions as the foundation of the Western educational system…” In contrast to English, however, the wealth of nuanced distinctions in the Haisla sound inventory – 28 consonants that are not part of the English sound system – require systematic representation that goes significantly beyond the familiar letters of the English alphabet. Over time, various different orthographies (alphabets and spelling systems) have been proposed for writing Haisla, but the best way to appreciate the intricacy and uniqueness of the language is through hearing it spoken.

The goal of this website, then, is to transcend the various literate representations of Haisla through the accompanying sound files of the voices of three fluent speakers from Kitamaat. In this way, the beautiful expressive power of this language that has evolved over millenia as a rich body of exclusively oral traditions can speak for itself.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Haisla speakers Louise Barbetti (Lyle Wilson’s mother), Rose Robinson, and Vera Wilson for their enthusiastic participation in contributing their voices to enhance the Haisla component of Lyle’s work and thereby to share the extraordinary beauty of their ancestral linguistic heritage with the world.

In the realm of art these Haisla words will stand a chance of achieving some form of immortality.

Lyle Wilson. Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson. (2012: 54)


– Patricia A. Shaw, Project Director

Glossary of Haisla Words

People  •  Clans  •  Salmon  •  Other Fish  •  Other Sea Creatures  •  Land Animals
Land & Water Animals  •  Water Animals  •  Birds  •  Objects  •  Places
Natural Phenomena  •  Heavenly Bodies  •  Miscellaneous

This installation operates best on Google Chrome.


1. mother
2. grandfather
3. Eagle Claws: head chief of the Beaver Clan & the Haisla people
4. members of a village
5. chief
6. name of supernatural fisherman
7. Whole Man: crest of the Beaver Clan


8. grandmother
9. shaman/magic/supernatural being
10. me/I
11. Great Man: name of supernatural Raven Trickster



12. Beaver Clan
13. Orca Clan
14. Eagle Clan
15. Fish Clan



16. chum
17. sockeye
18. pink
19. spring
20. old, very large spring salmon that has been in the river for a long time
21. steelhead
22. coho


Other Fish

23. skatefish
24. trout
25. black cod
26. bullhead/sculpin
27. sole
28. any type of bottom fish
29. fishing/to fish
30. any kind of fish
31. halibut
32. ling cod
33. flounder
34. dogfish
35. shark
36. red cod
37. herring
38. eulachon

Other Sea Creatures

39. sea urchin
40. clam
41. starfish
42. crab
43. abalone/flower
44. mussel
45. octopus
46. cockle


Land Animals

47. squirrel


Land & Water Animals

48. frog
49. otter
50. beaver
51. seal
52. supernatural water grizzly
53. sea lion


Water Animals

54. whale
55. orca
56. porpoise



57. heron
58. seagull
59. raven
60. eagle
61. hawk



62. totem pole
63. button blanket
64. canoe
65. painted bentwood box   RR   VW
66. bentwood box
67. drum
68. traditional, cone-shaped, eulachon net


69. Malcom Island
70. Ursula Channel
71. Butedale Cannery


Natural Phenomena

72. ocean/saltwater
73. river
74. water
75. mountain
76. fine, misty rain


Heavenly Bodies

77. sun
78. moon
79. stars


80. term used when fishers and hunters return home empty-handed
81. eulachon oil
82. three