Headdress depicting Raven by David A. Boxley, Alaskan Tsimshian
Headdress depicting Raven, 2000 by David A. Boxley, Alaskan Tsimshian alder, cedar bark, pigment, custom made stand 30” high x 9.5” wide x 15.5” deep
note: This beak of this mask is articulated, and the handle is a carved baby raven
David A. Boxley is Eagle Clan of the Alaskan Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska. Born January 19, 1952, he was raised by his grandparents. From them, he learned many Tsimshian traditions including the language. His grandfather was a canoe carver. After high school he attended Seattle Pacific University where he received a bachelor of science degree in 1974. He became a teacher and basketball coach to Junior and Senior high students in Alaska and Washington.
While teaching in Metlakatla in 1979, he began devoting considerable time to the study of traditional Tsimshian carving. Through researching ethnographic material and carvings housed in museum collections, Boxley learned the traditional carving methods of his grandfathers’ people. In 1986, he made a major career decision to leave the security of teaching and to devote all of his energies toward carving and researching the legacy of Northwest Coast Indian art.
David Boxley is the first Alaskan Tsimshian carver to achieve national prominence; He is particularly well respected as a totem pole carver, having carved 46 poles in the last 25 years.As well, David has been deeply involved in the rebirth of Tsimshian culture through the Potlatch. In 1982, he held a Potlatch in Metlakatla. During that event he raised a totem pole to honor his grandparents. This pole was the first totem pole ever to be raised in Metlakatla. Soon after that, he started to compose new songs and dances for the newly created 4th Generation Dance group in Metlakatla.
The Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian commissioned a totem pole that now permanently stands in the foyer of the Museum. The pole was dedicated and raised in January 2012. David considers this totem pole to be his most important commission professionally, but the totem pole he carved for his grandfather is by far the most important and meaningful personally.
In all of David Boxley’s works of art, from wood carvings to prints, he emphasizes Tsimshian style. In the recent resurgence of Native American cultural traditions, artists have become the culture bearers for their tribes. Boxley accepts this responsibility not only by his carving accomplishments, but by bringing back to his home village what he has learned on his path of the old traditions.