Frank Nelson, Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak̕wala Speaking People) artist, was born at Gilford Island, BC in 1945. He is a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw (Four Tribes of Kingcome Inlet). Frank’s father was Henry Nelson Sr. and his mother was Kathleen Lagis nee Willie. In 1974, Frank Nelson began carving under the auspices of the gallery Arts of the Raven, owned by his cousin Chief Tony Hunt. There, he learned from accomplished artists such as Master Carver Henry Hunt, Ross Hunt, Calvin Hunt, George Hunt Jr., Oscar Matilpi and John Livingston. It was under the wing of the Arts of the Raven that Frank began to understand one of the most important gifts given to us by the Creator, our culture. Frank, under the mentorship of Chief Thomas Hunt, began his journey to learning all aspects of the disciplines and protocols that accompany Kwakwaka’wakw culture. The years spent working at the Arts of the Raven allowed Frank the privilege of participating in countless art shows not only in North America, but also in Germany.
Frank is deeply involved in the traditions of his Ancestors; he is a Chief who continues to uphold his position by giving Potlatches. In June 1983, Frank held his first Potlatch and assumed his father’s Chief’s name Yekawid. Subsequent Potlatches followed in 1992 and 1995. He is also a song keeper and composer who continues to learn and bring forth songs that were previously “sleeping” or not alive. He has been instrumental in the Tribal Journeys great yearly canoe gatherings where thousands of Northwest Coast 1st Nations pull their traditional canoes to hosting destinations; the journeys are spiritual and healing. Yekawid takes great pride in the role he plays amongst his people. He was initially a dancer and is now also one of the lead singers in Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatches.
Frank works in many mediums, his first creations were in wood as he apprenticed under the Hunt family. Frank also creates silk-screen prints, t-shirts with traditional designs, CD’s with traditional songs and jewelry engraving, which he is steadily working at today.
“Our Creator has provided all nations with gifts that provide the disciplines of life. More importantly, in order for our children and our children yet unborn to survive, we must ensure that we do not allow our culture to deteriorate any further, and to keep it within our realm, so that we not deny our children those rights”. Chief Yekawid