He was born in a storm and grew up on a floathouse in Southeast Alaska, isolated in a good way. He lived like his Haida ancestors did, off what was caught from the sea and the nearby islands.
Now Stormy Hamar of Kasaan, a man who’s never been known by his given name of Glenn, has a new story to share, one of the best ones yet. It comes from a day punctuated by news of his 2018 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award.
Kasaan is a tiny village on Prince of Wales Island, with 49 people as of the last census. It’s expanding, just a bit. The grown children of Hamar and his wife, Bonnie, live in Kasaan.
Early on April 18, Stormy and Bonnie were sipping morning coffee with an old friend visiting from Ketchikan and his friend from California. In walked Eric and Becca, their son and daughter-in-law. They had seen her the night before, quite pregnant.
For the morning visit, “she’s carrying this little bundle in her arms,” Stormy says.
Bonnie suspected a prank. “April Fool’s is over! How did you get such a real-looking baby?”
Then everyone realized what happened.
“She had her baby!” Bonnie says. “We all started crying.”
“Everybody in the room!” Stormy says. The family, the older men visiting — everyone was overwhelmed with happy tears. “It was incredible.”
Becca was set on having her baby at home, just not quite yet, Stormy says. (The island health clinic is about an hour and a half away in Klawock.)
New mom and new baby – little Eulach (pronounced Oolie) came through an early home delivery well. She is the couple’s first grandchild and, they think, the first baby born in Kasaan in 70 years.
Everyone was still feeling the immensity of the moment when Stormy’s phone rang.
It was Rasmuson Foundation, announcing he was one of this year’s Individual Artist Award recipients.
“I’m like, ‘what is happening!’ These are two of the greatest things you could imagine, all happening within an hour of each other,” he says.
For his Individual Artist Award project, he will carve a large, traditional-style Haida dugout canoe. His art is a way of addressing the cultural trauma that surrounds Alaska Native people who lost so much, who break down emotionally or turn to alcohol and drugs to mask the hurts.
An effective way to heal, he says, is by doing what their ancestors did.
“This means learning the art form, carving canoes and totems, harvesting from the earth and understanding the effects of everything,” Hamar wrote in his award application.
In the 1970s, he paddled to school in an old dugout canoe. He has compiled what he believes to be the world’s largest collection of photos and writings on Haida-style canoes. He studied old canoes in Ketchikan, Seattle and Canada and learned from the late master carver Stan Marsden the art of totem poles and from master carver Steve Brown how to steam logs into elegant watercrafts. As a volunteer, he designed and managed the building of a carving shed for the local tribe, the Organized Village of Kasaan.
He’s ready for his next step. He wants to create a large canoe that is functional and beautiful. He hopes for people to experience the art of it.