G̱ilakas’la Na̱’na̱mwiyut / Welcome Friends

On behalf of my fellow artists, relations and the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw or Kwakʼwala Speaking People here follows my statement on authenticity. Our nation would like to share our feelings about people who imitate our traditional art forms and label their work as originating from our respected tribes.

Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artwork including carving, painting, designing, weaving, singing, dancing and story telling is a tradition that is passed on amongst our nations from generation to generation from the beginning of our existence. The teaching of these talents, skills or as we call them gifts, is through mentorship. Only select people are chosen to apprentice. Young people who are recognized as carrying natural talent, or gifts, are often selected or taken to a master in the specific art form and groomed to fulfill that role. In earlier times, only chosen students were allowed to learn these skills that we as Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw consider sacred.

As with many of our sacred teachings, artwork was done in secrecy. Only members chosen to learn these skills were allowed to witness their teachers at work. To the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, regalia and designs for ceremonial use are sacred and only brought out during the appropriate ceremonies. The artwork of creating masks and regalia for ceremony is a privilege that a selected artist earns and respects.

We as Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw honour our neighbouring villages and tribes and do not duplicate or create artwork that does not belong to us or have not received proper permission from the rightful owners to do so. All Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artwork represent crests and designs that belong to specific families who have inherited the right to create and wear these ancient symbols from our Creator.

Our beginnings predate the Great Flood when we first transformed from our supernatural forms to our human state as we are today. We are taught that before the deluge, it was the mythical Raven named “Ume_”, the first supernatural creature to give us our first ceremony and taught us how to make the regalia that is necessary for us to carry out the sacred dance. We are still carrying on this tradition and our neighbouring tribes do not imitate or copy the rights and artwork that accompany these dances. This is out of utmost respect for traditions that are sacred to us and were given exclusively to our forebears by the Creator. Our ancestors were blessed with a beautiful art form that was bestowed upon us by the Creator.

We find it necessary to inform people that there are other people not from our Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw First Nations that imitate and duplicate our artwork particularly for their personal gain through the commercial market. We want to encourage these people to search for their own traditions and privileges, as we would not disrespect them by copying their artwork and cultures. All people on this earth were given teachings and traditions that make us all individual and unique. When we are able to fully understand our roots and our own history, we are able to find oneness within our spirits and souls; it is only then that we will be able to find balance and live in harmony with all things in this great universe.

We are respectfully informing people that there are traditional Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artists that have been groomed and have the inherent right to carry on the legacy of creating authentic Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artwork. We must protect these gifts and gifted people that we now call artists. Our art was given to our ancestors for us to express ourselves and identify who we are as Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. Only we can truly continue this tradition, as we are the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw.

He’am / That is all.

Chief Waxawidi - ʼNa̱mǥis Artist, Singer, Composer and Story Teller.

The U’mista Cultural Centre encourages all Collectors and Gallery Owners to refer to the Artist Registry section on this website.
This site will verify authentic Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artists.
This site will be updated regularly.

U’mista – the return of something valuable to the rightful owner.