Shgendootan Robyn Kay George is the daughter of Gabriel and JoAnn George. She is the grandchild of Jimmy and Lydia George and Kelly and Olive Callahan. She was raised in Angoon, Alaska, in her clan house, Keet Oxoo Hit (Killer whale tooth house). As a child she was surrounded by her culture and her mother’s art work. These two influences have greatly shaped her life. Growing up she participated in Tlingit dancing with her grandparents dance group as well as learning to sing and dance in traditional settings such as the Koo.éex (also known as potlatch or “pay off party”). Her grandmother was always getting ready for these parities by preparing native foods and making crochet afghans, button blankets and tunics as gifts for the guests. Watching her do this work along with seeing her mothers dedication to her art fostered a love of creativity.
After graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, she attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She then moved back to her home village where she earned her teaching certificate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She spent 22 years merging teaching with culture and art and is now retired from classroom teaching. You can find her work in private collections as well as at the Juneau City Museum, Sealaska Heritage Institute, and UAF’s Museum of the North.
Growing up in Angoon, Alaska where sockeye season was a busy time of the year. Families work together to catch, smoke, and put their fish away. Shgendootan has fond memories of going with her uncle to get salmon and everyone had a hand in the process. When she was a younger, she remembers her father pointing to a field of fireweed and saying “Pop says that when fireweed are blooming the sockeye are running.” Hence this collection of octopus bags called, “L’ool ka Gāat, meaning fireweed and sockeye salmon. Shgendootan is constantly amazed at the environmental knowledge of her grandparents: learning from, observing, and being in tune with the surroundings is a way of life that has existed for centuries. This knowledge has been passed down from parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles for generations. Shgendootan is deeply touched as she watches her daughters now head out with their great-grandfather to beach seine for sockeye. Shgendootan is a Tradition Keeper and we are so honored to be introducing her to you!