Jensen, Doreen (1933 - 2009)

Culture/Community

Gitxsan

Biography

Doreen Jensen, also known as Hahl Yee, was born on May 13 1933 in Kispoix, just north of Hazelton, British Columbia. The name Hahl Yee belongs to the Killerwhale family crest from the House of Geel of the Fireweed Clan. Jensen attended the Gitanmax School of Northwest Indian Design where she learned to carve under the guidance of Tony and Henry Hunt. Doreen Jensen was also known for her work promoting aboriginal artwork, teaching Gitxsan language classes, and helping to revitalize traditional practices. She was a respected cultural leader and historian. In 1983 she curated an exhibit at MOA entitled “Robes of Power” which emphasized the strength of traditional design and craftsmanship. The exhibited highlighted the importance of regalia to First Nation ceremonies and the key role that women played in producing robes. Jensen went on to teach Gitxsan language classes at UBC and traditional art practices such as drum making, cedar baskets and bead work at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver. In 1993 Doreen Jensen was acknowledged by the Vancouver YMCA and was rewarded with the “Woman of Distinction” award. She also received the Golden Eagle Feather from the Professional Native Women’s Association and has been honoured with a name given to her by James Sewid and family at one of their potlatches. In 2008 she was also nominated for the BC Governor General Award in recognition of her passion for culture and tradition. Jensen passed away in 2009 leaving behind a lifetime of contribution to a revitalizing First Nation culture, language and artwork.