Coast Salish Nation
William Toby Jefferson was born on July 3rd, 1969. On his mother’s side, William is a descendant of Heyawek (Speakers) from his namesake’s Quiachtun and his father Latsean of Lummi/Thlaktemish. Both Quiachtun and Latesean are the 5th & 6th generation grandsons of Squilox, representing 10 generations of Thlaktemish on Orcas Island (200 years ago). Quiachtun married Celia, the daughter of the Heyawek named Chehanek and son of Joskanen of Semiahmoo. William’s mother is Tahweethlot Juanita Jefferson of Lummi and Dutch/Scottish Irish ancestry.
On his father’s side, William is the grandson of Heyawek Stateethlum (Chief Stateethlum) of S’klallam and Snuneymuxw (Chief Nanaimo) on Vancouver Island, and Sealth (Chief Seattle) of Suquamish/Duwamish. His father is Whipkanim David Jefferson of Lummi ancestry.
William was raised in the Longhouse under traditional teachings and stories. The earliest teachings handed down to him came from his cousin, Dale James, when he was only nine years old. James, a Lummi Master carver, advised William to “look into the wood, carve what you see and put your own style into it.” He told him that this approach was fundamentally Coast Salish and Lummi.
At the age of 12, William learned how to shape and carve canoes and paddles from his father. These lessons came long before William had ever considered himself a carver. He later learned teachings of canoe carving from his late Uncle Roy Edwards, of Stz’uminus First Nation, and from George Swanaset, of Nooksack Nation.
After befriending fellow artist Terrance Campbell at the age of 27, William was taught basic Formline design. It took him 3 years to transform his designs into his own unique style. This style is inspired by teachings, as well as from William’s spiritual experience with the animals, their spirits, and with “beings that no longer walk this earth.” His experiences with these things have sparked a desire to create art that flows continuously, connecting everything and everywhere.
“This is my connection to the spirit, my prayers to my ancestry, my Grandmothers, Grandfathers and our Creation.”
– William Jefferson, 2019