Thunderbird by Chief Henry Speck (1908-1971), Kwakwaka'wakw
Thunderbird by Chief Henry Speck (1908-1971), Kwakwaka'wakw Nation Silkscreen, Edition of 199 25" high x 27" wide framed
Chief Henry Speck (U’dzistalis) was born in 1908 in Kalugwis on Turnour Island, British Columbia. came from a prominent Kwakwaka’wakw family. His parents were ‘Wadzidi Harris from the Da’naxda’xw and Captain John Speck, a Hereditary Chief from the Lawit̕sis on Turnour Island. He was raised in the customary practices of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, a hereditary chieftainship, where Speck's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather each acted as chief.
In 1922, at the age of 14, Henry's uncle, Chief Bob Harris, sponsored him as an initiate in the sacred Hamatsa Society, which practices winter ceremony and dance and is one of the nation's most prestigious groups. Speck worked as fisherman until his father's deaths, at which point he took up the role of chief. He was also a painter, carver, and dancer, eventually teaching ceremonial dance to other initiates.
A largely self-taught artist, Speck worked in both watercolor and woodcarving. Speck’s first solo exhibition was held in 1964 at the New Design Gallery, and was comprised of forty watercolours. The sixteen page catalogue Kwakiutl Art was one of the earliest attempts to thoroughly analyze and promote Kwakwaka'wakw art in print for commercial purposes. The following year, Speck became artistic director of Chief James Sewid’s Big House project in Alert Bay.
Speck also exhibited at the Simon Fraser University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. His work is included in the collections of the British Columbia Provincial Museum, the National Museum of Man, the Glenbow Museum, the San Diego Museum of Man, and the Campbell River Museum. Henry Speck passed away on May 27, 1971.