Dave is a member of the Tsaxis First Nation. He was born in Alert Bay, the second of ten children – including brother Jonathan – and has lived most of his life in Fort Rupert, BC at the north end of Vancouver Island. Dave’s ancestral names are Humzidi from his Mother’s side, and Owaxagalis from his Father’s side.
Dave was mainly inspired by his Great-grandfather Mungo Martin, his Grandmother, Lucy Nelson (maiden name Martin), his Father Larry Jacobson, as well as his Great-uncle, Herbert Martin. “We have carvers, artists, and chiefs on both sides of our family. My Great-grandfather Mungo Martin, was very well known for all that he did, not just for our people but for culture itself, by reviving the Potlatch and keeping it alive. That’s my family on my Mother’s side.
“I never knew I was related to Mungo Martin. My Mom kept it very secret until we were in our teens and we finally learned about him, who he was, who we were. Since then I’ve been wanting to accomplish many of the things he accomplished but that’s a big task. He has done so many things, just the totem poles alone that he carved for the Queen! I will do my best to accomplish what I can, but it’s a tall order to fit his shoes because he lived the real old way. I’ve been groomed in the 20th century and the ways of society, but I have to take both the old and the new and make it work in all the things I’ve been working on.”
Another well-known relative, carver Willie Seaweed was chief of the Nakwaktokw band and one of the ‘Kwakwaka’wakw Four’ who developed a new style of Kwakwaka’wakw art in the 1920s. They used bright colours to create a more theatrical appearance to traditional designs. During the Canadian ban on Potlatch ceremonies, Seaweed continued to carve totem poles, coppers, headdresses, drums, rattles, whistles, and masks as well as painting house fronts.
“I can go back as far as 5-years old when I used to visit Willie Seaweed… He was connected to my dad’s family so that is why he lived here, even though he was from another village. I used to go watch him carve and that was pretty awesome…”
As a four year old Dave was taught the rhythm and beat to the ‘Hamatsa’ (Wild Man Dance) while his Great-uncle Herbert sang the lyrics. Another Great-uncle, Tom Johnson, taught him to dance wearing the traditional dance masks. These lasting experiences inspired Dave to focus on the carving of ceremonial dance masks.
After completing a two-year Fine Arts Diploma Program at North Island College in Courtenay BC, Dave acquired a wide variety of artistic techniques that he is using to innovate Kwakiutl Art, as well as further develop his very unique personal style.
“I first started carving when my late dad was living in Tahsis, carving plaques, masks, everything. I phoned my dad one time and said, ‘I’m all done with school, I just graduated this year, so I would like to come help you with your carving for a while.’ As soon as I got there, he grabbed one of his knives and he said, ‘Here you go – you carve the small ones and I’ll carve the big ones.’ I said, ‘WHAT, what do you mean? I thought I was just going to stain and polish,’ and he said, ‘Nope.’ So sure enough, I picked up that knife and started carving.”
“What inspires me to carve is that ever since I started carving I have never experienced such peace. No other worry in the world comes into my mind when I am carving, because it is a world all in its own and it is such a peaceful place.”
Over ten years ago, Dave received his first private commission order for a 43-foot tall totem pole. In 1997, he was one of five people responsible for the construction of a 45-foot West Coast style war canoe that hadn’t been in existence for the past 200 years. He participated in the Tribal Journeys and paddled in the canoe to the opening of the Indigenous Games held in Victoria that year. More recently, Dave participated in Tribal Journeys to start the Healing Conference for Residential Schools and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Return of the Potlatch in Lower Squamish, BC.
Dave’s vision is to start a school that will pass along Kwakiutl Art and Culture, as well as the skills needed to further develop and innovate this vibrant gift, to coming generations. “How incredibly excited we all are that a door was opened for us to be part of the Timber West Art Immersion and for such an awesome opportunity to see and meet the world!”