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Derek Wilson was born in 1950 in Kemano, British Columbia located along the central coast of the province. He was a hereditary Chief who comes from a long line of accomplished artisans.
He was a member of the Haisla nation, a subgroup of the Heiltsuk, Kwagiulth people. Derek took the Killerwhale, revered for its great strength and skill as a hunter, as his predominant family crest symbol.
Derek listed his uncle, Henry Robertson as his teacher. Henry was also a hereditary Chief and an accomplished and highly regarded wood carver. Derek stated that he began making Northwest Coast native art at the age of eight while learning about his heritage from his elders.
In 1976, he progressed to carving silver and gold jewelry as an alternative to carving wood. In terms of jewelry carving, Derek was generally self-taught however; he did receive formal training in stone setting at Vancouver Community College in 1994.
Derek’s attention to detail, his fine intricacy and design innovation, aided in establishing him as an accomplished Northwest Coast native artist. His style worked to preserve the traditions of his ancestors while being presented in a contemporary format.
In August of 2000, Derek, his brother Barry and his uncle Henry traveled to Sweden along with a replica pole on which the three carves had collaborated to produce. This replica pole was commissioned as a replacement for an existing G'psgoalux Haisla Totem Pole [C.1900] which resided in the Sweden Museum of Ethnology. Henry led the raising ceremony in Sweden, which was highly anticipated and well received by their Swedish counterparts.