The Life of a Northwest Coast Artist
- PUBLISHED: July 2003
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Native American and Indigenous Art, Native American and Indigenous Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 304 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 35 illus.
- ISBN: 9780295983240
Don Smith - or Lelooska, as he was usually called - was a prominent Native American artist and storyteller in the Pacific Northwest. Born in 1933 of “mixed blood” Cherokee heritage, he was adopted as an adult by the prestigious Kwakiutl Sewid clan and had relationships with elders from a wide range of tribal backgrounds. Initially producing curio items for sale to tourists and regalia for Oregon Indians, Lelooska emerged in the late 1950s as one of a handful of artists who proved crucial to the renaissance of Northwest Coast Indian art. He also developed into a supreme performer and educator, staging shows of dances, songs, and storytelling. During the peak years, from the 1970s to the early 1990s, the family shows with Lelooska as the centerpiece attracted as many as 30,000 people annually.
In this book, historian and family friend Chris Friday shares and annotates interviews that he conducted with Lelooska, between 1993 and ending shortly before the artist's death, in 1996. This is the story of a man who reached, quite literally, a million or more people in his lifetime and whose life was at once exceptional and emblematic.
Authors & Contributors
Chris Friday is professor of history and director of the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at Western Washington University.
Note to the Reader
A Life (Un)masked: Placing personal narrative
Growing Up Indian
Family across the Generations
Learning from People
"A Kind of Hunger"
Opening the New Worlds
Learning from Experience
A Family Complex
New Foes, Old Friends
Lelooska offers readers an engaging look into the life of a Native American artist, a life at once unique and representative of the tribulations and triumphs of Indigenous peoples in the twentieth century.- BC Studies
Friday has given Pacific Northwest historians, anthropologists, cultural scholars, and the general public a great gift in Lelooska.- Pacific Northwest Quarterly
This is more than a Northwest narrative. At its most fundamental level, it is a Native story. In the life and times of Lelooska, we see key issues confronted by countless American Indians in regard to identity. Lelooska’s story helps us to understand that identity is not simply bestowed but is forged through life choices and experiences.- Peter Iverson, author of Riders of the West: Portraits from Indian Rodeo
A richly textured and highly readable book. Chris Friday skillfully blends historiography, life history, and personal experience to explore the life and artistic career of the well—known Native American carver Lelooska. This is a book about the artist behind the art, and about the collaborative enterprise of life history.- Margaret B. Blackman, author of Sadie Brower Neakok, an Inupiaq Woman