Frog Ceremonial Feast Bowl, 1962 by Lelooska (1933-1996)
Frog Ceremonial Feast Bowl, 1962 by Don Smith, Lelooska (1933-1996) hand carved alder, hammered copper eyes 16" long x 9" wide x 6" deep mint condition
Master carver and storyteller Lelooska was born Don Smith in Sonora, California in 1933. He was called Yana the Bear at birth, but it was the name Lelooska, meaning "To Cut Against Wood With a Knife," that brought him fame.
He came to Hubbard, Oregon, in 1936 where his family ran a gift shop, and where Lelooska began to carve. Lelooska won acclaim for his totem poles, carved out of old-growth cedar. He is said to have carved 100 or more totem poles and thousands of masks, using only the D adze, the elbow adze and the hooked knives used by his ancestors.
"My grandfather was a whittler," Lelooska once told an interviewer. "He taught me to carve as soon as I could hold a knife." Lelooska's grandfather, He-Kill, a full-blooded Cherokee, also taught him the myths and legends of his people "Grandfather always told me “Let the hatchet be buried. But let not the Indian ways be forgotten."
During Oregon's Centennial in 1959, Lelooska carved a 50-foot totem pole celebrating the state's role in Operation Deep Freeze, which established a scientific station at the geographic South Pole. The pole now towers over Washington Park Zoo in Portland. He carved a duplicate 30-foot Friendship pole, which dominates the entrance to the international airport at Christchurch, New Zealand.
In 1961, the family moved to Ariel. Volunteers built a traditional longhouse, a log museum, and later an art gallery. In 1968, Chief James Sewid, hereditary chief of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation on Vancouver Island, held a potlatch to adopt Lelooska into the Sewid family.
Lelooska and his family offered traditional dance and storytelling performances, wearing the masks and robes of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation of British Columbia. Lelooska, with his deep and commanding voice, brought to life the myths and legends of his ancestors.
The longhouse shows were among his proudest accomplishments, attracting 25,000 visitors a year. There were also workshops in American Indian culture offered by the nonprofit Lelooska Foundation, where students can earn college credits from Central Washington University and Lewis & Clark College.
Lelooska received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark for his leadership in American Indian art and culture. He also was given the school's Aubrey Watzek Award for his contributions to American Indian culture. Lelooska passed away peacefully at home in Ariel, Washington in 1996.