The Haida Native people are renowned for their beautiful "black slate" or Argillite carvings. They began carving Argillite in response to the early curio trade of the 1820ís. Soon the artistic accomplishments of the Haida in the use of materials such as wood, horn and stone included this new medium.
The Argillite used by Haida carvers is a black or grey carbonaceous shale found at Slatechuck Creek on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Argillite is a relatively soft stone to carve, although itís difficult to obtain large pieces from the quarries. The supply of Argillite is not in any apparent danger of being exhausted so this Haida tradition of carvings will continue for many years to come.
Apart from small Totem Poles, the primary objects carved from Argillite include plates with incised designs, pendants, pipes, small boxes and sculptured figures. Some carvers give their work a high polish with emery cloth or other materials which enhance the deep black qualities of the stone.
Even today, Argillite continues to be carved exclusively by Haida artists both on the Queen Charlotte Islands (their homeland) and in the Vancouver and Victoria areas.