Animal Symbolism and Artist Bios

  Animal Symbolisms

Artist Bios for Jewelry and art                                                                                                                                 

Eagle – Power, Strength, Sacred, Foresight

Hummingbird –Beauty, Intelligence, Love

Bear –Strength, Nurture, Teacher, Healer

Wolf – Intelligence, Leadership, Strong Sense of Family

Killer Whale – Unity, Goodness, Intuition, Harmony

Frog – Spring, New life communicator, Good luck, Healing powers

Salmon – Prosperity, Provider, pairs are good luck

Sun – Healing Energy, Life, Beauty

Talking stick - also called a speaker's staff, is an instrument of aboriginal democracy used by many tribes, especially those of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America. The talking stick may be passed around a group or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public.  In a tribal council circle, a talking stick is passed around from member to member allowing only the person holding the stick to speak. This enables all those present at a council meeting to be heard, especially those who may be shy; consensus can force the stick to move along to assure that the "long winded" don't dominate the discussion; and the person holding the stick may allow others to interject. Talking sticks have high ceremonial and spiritual value, and have proved to be exceedingly useful during current implementations


The blanket symbolism


To give a blanket is to demonstrate great respect, honor and admiration for an individual. When receiving a blanket as a gift, the giver holds the individual in very high respects for their generosity and accomplishments. It is believed that receiving a blanket will bring good dreams and prosperity.

When a blanket is placed on an individual, it is like wrapping the respect and admiration of everyone in the community around them physically and spiritually.

Wearing blankets is an almost spiritual and so (Especially when worn as part of a dance) Blankets can take on a life of their own. They have a personality and spirit.



The meaning of a blanket is a complicated story. It can represent legends, stories, events and other perspectives of culture and heritage. Blankets are a form of craftsmanship, artistry, history and generosity. The blanket still holds a significant role in Aboriginal culture. The giving and receiving of a blanket holds the tradition of generosity and blessings.


The blanket can be used as a way of honoring individual life changing events (births, deaths, graduations, marriages) such as gift giving ceremonies, a way of recording a significant event, or to provide protection. Blankets replaced the role of the buffalo robes in ceremony as the number of buffalo declined.



Graham Henry

Graham was born in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada.  He is a member of the Cowichan Band of the Coast Salish Nation.   Graham takes the Eagle, a prestigious and high status symbol, as his family crest.  He has an intricate carving style and is constantly making new and unique designs.   He works in silver and gold.  Graham's brother, Travis Henry, was his main teacher.  He also worked with Patrick Seaweed a well renowned carver from Alert Bay, BC.   

Joe Descoteaux – Ojibway; Born in 1964 in Ontario, Joe moved to British Columbia in the 1980s where he met his wife Cheryl Wadhams. Joe began working in the Northwest Coast style under the guidance of Cheryl and her uncles Don Dawson and Raymond Wadhams. After working in wood for a year, Joe learned jewellery making techniques from Lloyd Wadhams Jr. In 2007, at a potlatch in Alert Bay, Joe was given the name Hilamas, a traditional name from the Dawson family which means 'he fixes things'.


Ogwilagamey (Chris Cook III) was born in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay) and is a hereditary chief of the ‘Namgis. Being born into a high ranking and traditional family, Cook is an avid storyteller and historian – a gift that he is able to harness through his creativity. As a child, Cook loved sketching, and studied metal work and machinery while in high school. In 1998, he received his BA in History from the University of Victoria, and was also enrolled in the silversmith courses at Camosun College while he was at UVIC. His prior metal working skills and sketching abilities were soon realized, and he was eagerly designing and producing art jewellery full time.

Cook credits Francis Dick for encouraging him to apply his metal working skills with Kwakwaka’wakw design. He was one of the first ‘Namgis artists to start inlaying semi-precious gem stones into his jewellery, something that has become a signature of his workmanship. Cook has spent many years refining his skills as a jeweler, even traveling to Italy to apprentice with the famous Bulgarian Silversmith Valentin Yotkov.  Cook speaks and teaches Kwak’wala, and is active in his community as a dancer, singer and historian.


Nancy Dawson was born in Alert Bay on northern Vancouver Island in September 1954. Her mother, Catherine Beans, was from the Mamaleleqala-awe-qwa-sot-enox nation on Village Island; and her father, Don Gesinghaus, was of German descent. Nancy credits her family for her success as an artist. Her father was a talented wood and metal worker who fashioned intricate wooden railings that both fascinated and inspired Nancy. Her mother raised Nancy in the ‘potlatch circle’ which contributed greatly to Nancy’s sound understanding of her culture. However, it was through Nancy’s efforts to develop her son’s interest and understanding of Kwagiutl art that she became inspired to begin designing. The invitation to reproduce her designs in red and yellow cedar could not, and would not be ignored. Nancy has been carving poles and masks since 1980, being invited to participate in the carving of the world’s largest totem pole which graced the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC.

Vincent Henson:

Vincent Henson is from the Kwa kwa k’wak Nation.

Vincent was born in Victoria, B.C. on August 12, 1992. He is a very creative and artistic artist.

Vincent has been apprenticing with his aunt, Nancy Dawson, and creating his own pieces since he was 7.


 Jim Yelton

im Yelton, Squamish Nation. Jim was born in Squamish, British Columbia in 1955 and has been carving his entire life. The skill of carving was pasted down to Jim from his father, Michael Yelton who taught him about the Northwest Coast First Nations traditions of his cultural and how they applied to his art form.  For over 30 years, Jim has been carving cedar wood and specializes in Masks, Feast Dishes, Canoe Paddles and most of all, Talking Sticks. Jim’s influences are the traditions of his people and the natural environment surrounding him. He incorporates indigenous animals in his work which have specific meanings and symbolisms within the Squamish Nation culture. His work can be found in galleries and private collections worldwide. Jim currently resides in Sechelt, British Columbia.


Shain Jackson

Shain Jackson is Coast Salish from the community of Sechelt. He is a lawyer who has represented the interests of Indigenous communities and organizations throughout British Columbia in relation to a broad array of issues. After years devoted to the legal profession Shain has taken a break to follow his passion as an artist.


Artistically, Shain works in Coast Salish design. As he has continued to develop his own artwork to a higher level, he has had the privilege of collaborating with many amazing local artists. Along these lines Shain has devoted much of his time to the protection of artists’ rights.


Currently Shain is the President of Spirit Works Limited, an Indigenous owned, operated and staffed company focused on the design, production and distribution of Indigenous artwork such as jewelry, bentwood boxes, paddles, and so on.


Shain has always taken very seriously his responsibilities not only to his own community, but to the urban Indigenous community at large. Further to this, through his company Spirit Works, Shain: has developed programs aimed at providing employment and training to Indigenous youth; donates space, equipment and expertise to Indigenous artists in need; consistently donates time and artwork to numerous charitable organizations; has designed and facilitated workshops aimed at providing cultural teachings for at-risk Indigenous youth; and much more.

Virginia Jacobs                                               

Virginia is a member of the Squamish Nation, and as taught by her Cowichan Mother In Law, she learned how to knit when she was in here twenties;  Virginia has been knitting cowichan sweaters and toques for over 50 yrs. Now in her 70s, she still spins and washes and prepares her own wool, along with the help of her son she continues to knit beautiful sweaters.

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