Born in 1952 in Metlakatla, Alaska, David Boxley was raised by his grandparents. David learned many Tsimshian traditions including the language from them. His four Tsimshian names include one that means the “First to Potlatch”, and another one that means “He who works with cedar”.
After graduating high school he attended Seattle Pacific University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974. He then 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 from museum collections, Boxley learned the traditional carving methods of his grandfather’s 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 art. Since then, David Boxley has become a nationally recognized First Nations artist showing and demonstrating his art in many parts of the United States and Europe.
In 1990, during the Goodwill Games, Boxley was commissioned to carve the crown of a “Talking Stick.” Boxley’s carving of a unified American eagle and a Russian bear became a symbol of peace and harmony between the United States and Soviet Union and was an important part of the summer’s Goodwill Games. Messages from President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev were inserted in a hollowed portion of the talking stick and athletes carried the stick from Spokane through Washington and Oregon to Seattle for the opening ceremonies. In the millennium year 2000, David was commissioned to carve a Talking Stick for the office of the Mayor of Seattle. In addition, he has carved over 65 totem poles so far in his career.
Boxley’s functional and decorative pieces such as bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, prints and panels are in collections of the King and Queen of Sweden, the Emperor of Japan, the President of West Germany, the Mayor of Chongging (China), Microsoft, Walt Disney World, Knott’s Berry Farm and numerous other private collectors of fine Northwest Coast art.