Eugene was born in Alert Bay, BC on March 22, 1958. He is a member of the ‘Namgis (Alert Bay) First Nation of the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak̕wala Speaking People). He is also Kwixa Kwagu’ł (2nd Tribe of Fort Rupert) by his ancestry from his grandmother Dorothy nee Nowells’ side.
“I became interested in native art in my early teens at Alert Bay. A beautiful painting of a Thunderbird by Chief Henry Speck Sr. was displayed in the hallway at school. It was that painting which inspired me to become an artist and I have been working as an artist for 32 years now. It was back in the early seventies when Beau Dick came to our school to teach a course in art, that was when I began my first training as an artist”.
My influences of old are: Willie Seaweed, Charlie James, Mungo Martin, Blackie Dick, Bob Harris, Andy Beans, Doug Cranmer, Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick. I have apprenticed under Beau Dick and Wayne Alfred who are both two very good friends of mine. My first love of the art involved making designs of Killer Whales, Thunderbirds, Sea Monsters, and Sisiyutł (Double-Headed Sea Serpent). I used to paint these designs using a brush and India ink. Now I work with acrylics on paper, wood and leather. I also carve cedar and alder, and I design and carve leather belts. I currently live and am working at Alert Bay.
Through my work I want to communicate a feeling of energy, electricity, and an illusion of movement. Some major works that I’ve been involved with are two projects at Canada Place for Expo 86, and a 40-foot totem pole at Stanley Park. I have also created numerous pieces for Potlatches for ceremonies such as screens, masks, talking sticks and headdresses. I also contribute to our culture by helping oversee the planning of a Potlatch and participate in cultural dance performances in various locations for different occasions. My involvement in our culture to me is, a most rewarding experience. I believe that artists are a very important part of what keeps our culture alive and thriving in these ever changing times. We are warriors in our own right because we are protecting and fighting for our culture through our art.