One of my earliest childhood memories is the pungent aroma of yellow cedar in my grandmothers carving studio. To my adolescent mind, the shavings seemed to be waist high, and I had to wade through them to explore the mysterious tools and the half-finished carvings which lay about. I had no way of knowing then, that this was a glimpse into my own future, and a creative path that began generations before I was born.
At the time I was playing in cedar shavings, my father, Dave Neel Sr. was apprenticing with his mother, Ellen Neel; who is credited with being the first Native woman carver (It was Haida artist, Frieda Diesing, who first pointed this out to me in the 1990's). Ellen had the good fortune of learning to carve from her uncle, Mungo Martin, and her grand-father, Charlie James. Mungo apprenticed with Charlie James, from a young age, and they completed many totem poles, masks and other carvings together. The name of the master-carver who taught Charlie has been lost to history.
These are some of the people who helped keep the culture alive during their time, and passed on their knowledge. We are fortunate that many fine photographs of them still exist; and some of my favorites can be seen here. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have.
David Neel (Glaglaklawis)