Jon Maxwell Henderson (Wa nu kw) is a member of the Campbell River Weiwaikum Band. He was born in Alert Bay, BC in 1969 to Sharon Whonnock (Wa nu kw) and Dan Henderson. Dan Henderson is the Hereditary Chief of the Henderson Family, and holds the name Udzistalis. When initiated as a Hamatsa dancer, Jon’s father gave him the name Akh Akh yala gilis that translates to “man standing on the beach with his mouth open.”
For the first 15 years of his life, he grew up with his mother’s side of the family. On three different occasions, while visiting his father, Jon had the rare opportunity to watch his grandfather, Sam Henderson carve totem poles, which led him to begin designing and carving on his own at the age of 13.
In 1986, Jon moved to Campbell River where he studied and learned more about the Kwagiulth or Kwakwaka’wakw art styles from his father and uncles, Bill and Mark Henderson. Jon primarily works with red and yellow cedar. He carves totem poles, masks, feast dishes, spoons (all in various sizes). In addition, he specializes in original paintings and serigraph prints. After graduating from high school in Campbell River in 1991, Jon moved on to Malaspina College where he received a certificate from the Professional Cook Training Program.
In 1993, he started learning traditional Kwagiulth songs under the tutelage of Chief Frank Nelson. To this day, Jon continues to learn from Chief Frank Nelson and other Chiefs when participating in Potlatches, Feasts and other cultural functions.
In 1996, he began carving at the Thunderbird Park carving shed, which is located on the Royal British Columbia Museum grounds in Victoria. Jon continued to carve there until 1999, along with fellow carvers, Sean Whonnock, Jason Hunt, Shawn Karpes and Luke Marsten, where they demonstrated, during the summer months, their carving skills to the tourist trade.
On October 30th, 1999 Jon and his brother, Sean Whonnock (Wa nu kw), raised a 25-foot totem pole in Thunderbird Park. The crests honour both the Henderson and Wa nu kw families. The totem pole was dedicated to the Coast Salish people, of the Victoria area, on behalf of the Kwakwala speaking people.
Jon is the proud father of two children, a son Darren and a daughter Cheyenne. While he raises his young family along side his life partner Laureen, he continues to develop and define his distinctive style of painting and carving.
“I have been carving for a living since 1994 and have strong beliefs in the richness and diversity of my culture. I will continue to carve with respect to the ways my father has taught me and with the proper protocol in the ways things are to be done. I will do my best to preserve and restore what I can of my culture as I feel an obligation to make sure there will be something for my children and for future generations of the Kwakwala speaking people. I must state that while I do not yet know everything about my culture, I know about what I carve and paint and what I represent. I feel that I am a suitable ambassador for my culture and student of it for the rest of my life.”
2007 Coastal Legacy, a group exhibition at Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, Vancouver, B.C., November
2006 Transcendence – a decade in perspective, Group exhibition at Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery. Vancouver, BC.