Tracing Roots

A Master Weaver’s journey to understand a spruce root hat found in a retreating glacier.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
35 mins
Remote video URL


A heartfelt glimpse into the world of Haida elder and weaver, Delores Churchill and a discussion generating documentary about the multilayered meaning of an object.

Featured review

A remarkable, accessible and beautiful film that will stimulate discussion among students of all ages from a wide variety of disciplines.
Julie Cruikshank
Anthropologist/Author, “Do Glacier’s Listen.”


Tracing Roots is a portrait of an artist and a mystery. The film follows master weaver and Haida elder Delores Churchill on a journey to understand the origins of a spruce root hat found with Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, the Long Ago Person Found, a 300-year-old traveler discovered in Northern Canada in a retreating glacier. Delores's quest crosses cultures and borders, involving artists, scholars and scientists, raising questions about the meaning of connection, knowledge and ownership.


I felt I was right there walking in the woods and along the shoreline. I wasn't just watching something, I was being part of it
Bill Holm
Author Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form
The story unfolds like roots, in multiple directions all at once...although Churchill is the subject of the documentary, she is also one of its architects. It is her weaving, the art of it and the intellectual quest she lays before viewers that gives the film its humble humanity.
Indira Arrigra
Anchorage Press
Tracing Roots shows the extremely complex socio-cultural context of objects from the deep archeological past. Delores and her students reveal cultural continuity that that seems to be present in our souls.
Larry J. Zimmerman
Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Inspirational. The film shows how one person can through commitment to respectful inquiry, learn and help teach and touch hearts and minds. Delores' work is especially important because she reaches out beyond her proximal communities in pursuit of the knowledge and relationships that ultimately weave us together.
John R Welch
Department of Archaeology and School of Resource and Environmental Management Simon Fraser University
Tracing Roots is about more than basket maker Delores Churchill's quest to reproduce the woven hat of Long Ago Person Found- it's about connections to the people in the present and those in the past and the way we can continue to learn from our ancestors.
Joe Watkins
The ACE Consultants
As if creating a basket herself, Frankenstein weaves together several different stories: Delores's family; her teaching activities; her passion for a woven hat made hundreds of years ago; the value of DNA research for contemporary First Nations... A valuable teaching tool for classes that address Native American art, culture and history.
Aldona Jonaitis
Director Museum of the North

Awards and Screenings

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Intellectual Property and Cultural Heritage Gathering, Vancouver
American Indian Film Festival, Best Documentary Short, Nominee
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Mendocino Film Festival
International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums, Washington D.C.
Harvard Peabody Museum
Native Women Artists: Creativity & Continuity, National Museum of the American Indian, Public Program
Amercian Anthropology Association Meetings/Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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