(1951 - Present, Kwakwaka'wakw)
Simon Dick was born on February 5, 1951 in Alert Bay, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, BC. He is of Tsawataineuk Kwicksutaineuk (“people of the far shore”) descent on his mother’s side, and Nax wax daxw (“people of all”) heritage on his father's side. He was brought up in the traditional manner as the grandson of hereditary chiefs on both sides of his family. His hereditary name is “Tanis” meaning “half-tamed”, and his borrowed name is Simon Dick. He grew up in the village of Kingcome Inlet where the traditional methods of hunting, trapping and food preparation were regular practice and teachings of the language, arts, dancing and culture were ever present.
Simon’s knowledge of his culture and of his area stems from the teachings of his elders in the Kwakwala language, a language in which he is fluent. Simon was initiated into the Hamatsa Society which is the highest ranking Kwakwaka’wakw secret society. The Hamatsa society controls certain rights and responsibilities that are both hereditary and earned through participation in dance rituals. The initiate is tested over many years before receiving full rights within the society.
Simon’s concentration has always been on the preservation of his people’s culture, and his personal contributions are continually being made through his artwork and his dancing. Whether performing at a potlatch or carving a traditional Kwakiutl canoe for the World Exposition ’86, Simon’s heart remains with his people. He is an artist, a dancer, and a traditionalist. He will lead you through his world and share with you the oral history, legends, music and culture of his people.
“My interest in traditional carving goes way back. As a child our house was less than 100 feet from a 40-foot pole carved for the memory of King George VI. The Thunderbird on the top was carved by Willie Seaweed of Blunden Harbour. I would stare at this beautiful monument and dream that someday I may acquire the gift to carve like my ancestors. I would visit carvers in their homes and ask questions about certain characters. I would visit Dick Hawkins, Art Lagis, Charlie Willie, Jack James…they were all such wonderful teachers.
In later years, moving to Alert Bay, I witnessed the construction of a traditional ceremonial house. I was greatly influenced by the guidance of Chief James Sewid, Henry Speck, James Dick, Charlie George and Blackie Dick, and so many more. In my early twenties, I apprenticed under Tony Hunt for four years in Victoria. I also studied under Sam Henderson of Campbell River. Many of my mentors have gone before me, and now it is my turn to continue on my journey, to carve, sing and dance.”