Peter Smith

Northwest Coast Native Artist Peter Smith from Kwakwaka’wakw Nation

Kwakwaka’wakw Nation

Peter Smith was born in Vancouver, BC in 1972. His artistic exposure began at a young age on Gilford Island where he grew up surrounded by notable artists Sam Johnson, Jack James, and Allen James. At the age of four, Peter began training in traditional singing and dancing, which he continues to practice today. At this time, he also received his Kwak’wala name Giq-Kalas which means “Sons of Great Importance.” As a result of this upbringing, Peter possesses a deep understanding of the meanings the traditional dances, songs, and masks hold.

Peter has been carving wood since 1995, starting under the guidance of Simon Windazi James. He then furthered his knowledge while studying under carvers Simon Dick and Simon James. A lifetime engaged in the cultural practices of his nation has resulted in a refined artistic style that skillfully blends the traditional with the contemporary. Peter is best known for his masks and sculptures that utilize a bright colour palette and feature crisp, clean lines. He has also explored an interest in jewelry by studying under silver-smith Sonija Triebwassen.

Peter had the honour of hereditary chief status being passed down to him from his late father, Chief Charles Smith. As such, on October 22, 2011, Peter took his standing as Chief Tlil mogi Lakw of the Musgamagw in a naming feast that he held for his father’s remembrance. This important role he serves within his community manifests his passion for the traditional ways of his people that he has celebrated since childhood, and allows him to share them with the next generation.