Robert “Skip” Saunders is a Nuxalk artist and hereditary Chief who comes from a family of accomplished carvers. He was born in Kimsquit, which is located at the mouth of the Dean River in British Columbia. Kimsquit is the ancestral village of the Saunders family.
Robert began carving at the age of seven and, like his father before him, is largely self-taught. He carves primarily in red Cedar wood, creating masks and plaques that are inspired by the supernatural beings found in Nuxalk oral traditions. Robert considers his artistic style to be a mix of traditional and contemporary, and he is known for his clean lines and attention to detail.
As the grandson of Chief Joe Saunders and the son of Arthur Saunders, Robert’s talented creations should come as no surprise. Joe Saunders was a legendary boat and canoe builder, while Arthur was a traditional artist and a former recipient of the ‘Native Artist Fellowship Award’ from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Robert passed on his knowledge and skill to his own son, Sesyaz Saunders, who has established himself as a highly skilled artist in his own right.
In 2005, the Saunders Chieftainship, formerly held by Arthur Saunders’ older brother, was passed down to Robert. At this time, he also received the name XimXimlayc, or “Bringer of the Morning Light.” He continues to preside as the hereditary Chief of the Sutslhmc territory today.