Richard Hunt
Pacific Northwest Coast Native Sculptor



Richard Hunt is a Kwaguilth Native from Fort Rupert, near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, B.C. The Hunt family has been at the centre of traditional ceremonial life and wood carving for generations. Richard's grandfather, Mungo Martin, was largely responsible for the rebirth of Northwest Coast-Indian art. Richard began carving wood at the age of 12 under the tutelage of his father, Henry Hunt, also a renowned artist. Richard worked as chief carver in Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum for more than a decade.

Richard Hunt is now a freelance artist. His totem poles, masks, rattles and prints are in museums and private collections throughout North America and Europe. In 1991, Richard Hunt was the recipient of the prestigious Order of British Columbia, making him the first Native artist to be so honored. In 1994, he became a member of the Order of Canada.

Today, some of Richard Hunt's highly sought after wood carvings are being cast in limited edition glass and bronze. Galleria Silecchia is honored to present these works to our collectors.

Richard Hunt was born in Alert Bay, British Columbia in 1951, but has lived most of his life in Victoria. He began carving wood with his father, the late Henry Hunt, at the age of thirteen. In 1973, Richard began work at the Royal British Columbia Museum as an apprentice carver under his father. The following year he assumed the duties of chief carver in the Thunderbird Park Carving Program. Hunt remained in the museum in that capacity for twelve years. In 1986, he resigned to begin a new career as a freelance artist. Richard Hunt comes from a family of internationally respected artists, which include his father Henry Hunt and his grandfather Mungo Martin.

In 1991, Richard Hunt received the Order of British Columbia “in recognition of serving with the greatest distinction and excellence in a field of endeavor benefitting the people of the Province of British Columbia and elsewhere.” This prestigious award program was established in 1990. Richard is the first native artist to be so recognized.

In 1994, Richard received the most prestigious award of his career, The Order of Canada. “The Order was established in 1967 as a means of recognizing outstanding achievement, honouring those who have given services to Canada, to their fellow citizens or to humanity at large.”

Richard Hunt's Indian name is highly appropriate, considering his accomplishments. Gwel-la-yo-gwe-la-gya-les means "a man that travels around the world giving." Through his art, and his dancing, Richard Hunt has indeed given much to the world.

The Kwaguilth people traditionally inhabit the Northeastern coast of Vancouver Island and are part of the Kwakiutl region, which includes parts of Vancouver Island and the central coast of the province of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. In pre-contact days the Kwakiutl people numbered about 50,000, enjoying a sophisticated, spiritual culture that revolved around our relationship with the sea. The Kwaguilth people have traditionally inhabited an area of coastline that is poor for agriculture but rich in animal and sea life.

The artwork you see on this site originated in a tradition where it was not just decorative, but usually had ceremonial importance as well. The use of particular designs and masks, in addition to ceremonial dances, could be earned or passed on through family, what we refer to as ownership. Many of the designs featured in my artwork are owned in this way by my family. Additionally, I have family roots with the Tlingit nation on the southern panhandle of Alaska.

For further reading about the Kwaguilth and Kwakiutl peoples, Hunt recommends:

  • The Legacy, Peter L. Macnair, British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1994.
    ISBN 0-295-96166
  • Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch, Edited by Aldona Jonaitis, American Museum of Natural History, 1991. ISBN 0-295-97114-2

RICHARD HUNT EAGLE BEAR TOTEMRichard Hunt is a prominent member of a family that has been an artistic dynasty for generations, and today is among the most celebrated of the contemporary Northwest Coast artists. His family roots and artistic style can be traced to the Kwak-waka'wakw village of Fort Rupert on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island. The eighth of fourteen children, he was born in the nearby island community of Alert Bay, although the family moved to Victoria the next year when his father agreed to assist his father-in-law, master-carver Mungo Martin, with the design and construction of the Thunderbird Park project.

Thunderbird Park was the first significant contemporary Northwest Coast commission. Initiated in 1952, the installation project was proposed for the grounds of the then Provincial Museum (now the Royal British Columbia Museum). Since then the Park has continued to evolve from the original premise for the re-creation of a traditional First Nations village site (with a longhouse, totem poles, masks, and ceremonial and utilitarian pieces), to a much broader role which includes a public education centre, as well as a training centre for new artists--and became the source for many major commissions internationally, including totem poles donated as gifts from British Columbia (and the Government of Canada) to other cities for important events and occasions.

The responsibility for the position of First Carver for the project was held by Richard’s grandfather, Mungo Martin, and was passed in due course to his father, Henry Hunt, and then to Richard in 1974. He was by then a seasoned carver, having started when he was thirteen, and held this position for twelve years before leaving to concentrate on his own career as an artist. Many of the children of Henry Hunt, like Richard, went on to pursue careers as artists, as have many of the nieces and nephews. The family became part of the very fabric of Victoria--through numerous public commissions, charitable work and community service--and certainly helped in the creation of a focus and destination for the emerging market in Northwest Coast art. The family continues to be strongly dedicated to culture and ceremony--and have emerged as ambassadors for Northwest Coast culture on the world stage.

Richard was one of the thirty-nine contemporary artists selected for the contemporary addition to the seminal 1970 exhibition, "The Legacy—Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Art", which was curated by the Provincial Museum in Victoria, and which included both historic and contemporary works and offered an overview of the significant modern artists. The exhibition toured into the 1980s, and was, at the time, seen as the flagship of the renaissance of Northwest Coast art.

RICHARD HUNT EAGLE SALMONHe has received numerous commissions for totem poles, including public commissions for the cities of Liverpool; Middlesborough in England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Brisbane, Australia; Anaheim, California; and Portland, Oregon; as well as locally in Duncan, Vancouver, and Victoria, British Columbia. Among other public works, Richard was selected for a major installation at the Vancouver International Airport; and was a part of a multi-artist commission to create the furnishings for the University of Victoria Ceremonial Convocations; he has also produced ceremonial pieces for the Museum Natural History in New York (the “Chiefly Feasts” collection and publication); and has major works with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Richard Hunt was the first Northwest Coast artist to be elected to the Order of British Columbia (in 1991). In 1994 he was elected to the Order of Canada, which is the most prestigious national honor for service to Canada. In 2004 he received Canada's highest arts award when he was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts. He has also been honored for his many contributions to the city of Victoria, including an Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Victoria, the Honorary Citizen Award in 2001, and the Golden Jubilee Medal from H.R.H Queen Elizabeth for outstanding service to his country.

He has continued to contribute to numerous charities through the annual golf tournament in Victoria that bears his name (for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations), the Victoria Marathon, the Canadian Diabetes Foundation, and the Lions Society of British Columbia, to name only a few.

Through his accomplishments in both the art world and the society in which he lives, Richard has come to embody his family name: Gwel-la-yo-gwe-la-gya-les: a man that travels around the world giving.

The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is very proud to present this outstanding exhibition from one of our living National Treasures.

-- Gary Wyatt, Curator

Catalog essay from: "Richard Hunt - The Evolution of My Time"
March 19 - April 21, 2005 Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The following personal history of Native American sculptor, Richard Hunt traces the development of his career as well as many of his major sculptural works and contributions.


Richard begins working on a 30-foot totem pole for the Portland Community College, Sylvannig Campus; The pole is erected on the campus on May 2001
Richard begins working on a 20-foot totem pole for a private collector in Aspen, Colorado


Richard completes the 16-foot totem pole for the private collector in New York
Richard travels to the Detroit Institute of Arts to perform a carving demonstration and lecture on "Arts Vs. Cultural Property"
"Richard Hunt, Through My Father's Eyes" opens at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, March 16 and runs through August, 2000
Richard continues with his private commissions of masks and carves a welcome figure for his fourth in a series, bronze sculpture


Richard completes work on a variety of projects for his private collectors; Also completed are two 61"totem poles for the Chinook Group in Toronto, Canada
This year's "Richard Hunt Big Open" golf tournament raises an amazing $13,000 for Big Brothers and Big Sisters
Richard begins working on a 16-foot totem for a private collector in New York
Organization and work are well underway for a Richard Hunt retrospective show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in March , 2000; The show, titled "Richard Hunt, Through My Father's Eyes" will run through August, 2000


Richard begins a second term with the British Columbia Arts Council.
Richard begins working on a private commission for a client building a home in Victoria. He designs two totem poles at the outside entrance and a third totem inside the foyer.
Richard begins working on a commission for the Vancouver Airport; He will cover a 16-foot killer whale, which will be situated over water, and a 9-foot thunderbird. This magnificent carving will be proudly displayed at the domestic terminal
Richard's work appears in an article in the June edition of "Architectural Digest"
The exhibit. "Down from the Shimmering Sky," Masks of the Northwest Coast, opens at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in which eleven of the artist's pieces are displayed
Richard continues his support of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters; This year's "Big Open" golf tournament raises over $12,000
Richard performs a carving demonstration and informal lecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery; He continues his work on "Arts Vs. Cultural Property"
Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria is home to the exhibit, "Voices of Fort Rupert, the Hunt Family Carves," in which Richard has three pieces that sell out in record time
Richard is one of the artists selected to product artwork for an Exciting development, Shoal Point
Richard completes work on the Vancouver Airport Project



Richard travels to the Heard Museum in Phoenix to demonstrate his carving and culture
Richard performs a carving demonstration and a series of lectures at the Colorado State University and the Denver Art Museum. He also carves a puppet which is on permanent display at the DAM
Richard is commissioned by the prestigious Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University to carve a sea monster mask.
Richard sponsors the "Big Open" to raise money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. This first annual golf tournament was so successful, it raised $10,000 for the cause
Richard launches a new line of clothing with his designs
Richard continues to support the Royal Victoria Marathon with his designs featured on the marathon shirt; Since Richard started working with the marathon, the race participation has increased from 600 runners in 1987 to a record 2200 in 1997
Richard begins his second term with the “Governor General’s Caring Canadian Committee”



Richard is selected by the Governor General of Canada to join the seven-member Board to choose the logo and name for the new Governor General’s Award. While in Ottawa, Richard is the guest at Rideau Hall
Richard travels to the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, to perform a carving demonstration and lecture
Richard re-paints the totem pole he carved for the Royal British Columbia Museum in 1979
Since 1987 Richard has done the logo for the Royal Victoria Marathon; This year he donates a Moon Mask (value $5,000) to increase participation in the race



Richard carves a 12-foot pole for the Investor's Group in Victoria, B.C., who then present the pole to Camosun College, Interurban. This pole stands proudly in the newly constructed courtyard at the college. Richard dedicates this pole in memory of his mother, Helen Hunt
He creates a design for the British Columbia Paraplegic Association to enable the BCPA to raise funds in support of their cause
Richard creates several designs for UVIC's Conference Management Department for use as convention logos
Richard continues to provide the Royal Victoria Marathon with their design and logo which he has been doing since 1987
He travels to Los Angeles, California to re-paint a totem he had carved in 1985 for the Southwest Museum, Los Angeles. While there, he receives a resolution from the City of Los Angeles for his artistic contributions to the City
Hunt has his second successful art exhibition at the Derek Simpkins Gallery of Tribal Art in Vancouver, B.C. This show is the culmination of nearly two years of work



Hunt's design, The Kulus, was chosen as the bronze medal for the Commonwealth Games, Victoria, 1994
Together with Coastline, Ltd. Richard produces the designs and Coastline produces the garments, for the CBC, host broadcaster of the Commonwealth Games, Victoria, 1994
Richard receives the most prestigious award of his career, The Order of Canada
Together with Butch Dick & Art Thompson, Richard is guest curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria/Victoria Native Friendship Centre’s Northwest Coast Exhibit “Nation to Nation” from July 1 to September 4, 1994



Hunt is elected to the board of directors of Friends of the Royal British Columbia Museum       
Hunt receives the Canada 125 Medal in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots,    community and Canada.
Hunt is selected as one of the artists to provide the University of Victoria with its Convocation ceremonial furnishings. Richard's contribution was the Talking Stick; intricately carved with some 60 pieces of abalone
Richard is asked by the Province of British Columbia to carve the Speaker's clock; This clock was a gift to the Northwest Territories for their new Legislative Buildings
Hunt sits on the Project 21 Committee board to select native students for an aboriginal studies program
Hunt sits on the First Nations Artist Steering Committee; This is a joint committee set- up with Small Business and Trade to aid native artists in the marketing of their products
Hunt travels to Washington, DC to perform a carving demonstration and lecture at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution



Hunt travels to New York to give a carving demonstration at the American Museum of Natural History; While at the Museum, he carves a 12-foot totem pole for the exhibit, Chiefly Feasts
Hunt carves a 7.5 foot replica killer whale for a private collector
Diazed and painted a 20-foot Kwaguilth house front depicting Raven and Sisuitl, on permanent display at Knott's Berry Farm, Los Angeles, California
Hunt sat on the board for the selection of recipients to the Order of British Columbia, 1992
Along with Charles Elliot and Art Thompson, Hunt carves the Queen's Baton used in the Commonwealth Games held in Victoria, British Columbia in 1994



Hunt travels to Los Angeles to give carving demonstrations at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, and the Natural History Museum; He also travels to California State University for another demonstration and lecture
Hunt carves, as a private commission, a monumental plaque depicting the Animal Kingdom from the Sea being summoned to dance in the Big House; The plaque measures 15 x 6 feet, is two inches thick and is carved in one-inch relief
Hunt receives the prestigious Order of British Columbia in recognition of his contributions to the artistic and cultural spheres in the province
Hunt carves a 4 x12 foot table for the First Peoples' Cultural Foundation depicting Elder's Gathering



Hunt carves a 30-foot totem pole for a private collector in Los Angeles, California
Richard Hunt has his first solo gallery art show in Vancouver, British Columbia; His fourteen piece exhibition was a great success



Hunt carves a 20-foot pole for a private collector on Bowen Island, British Columbia
Hunt designs and paints an 8x12 foot dance screen for the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Ottawa; John Livingston assisted with the painting
Hunt carves a bear transformation mask for the Science Museum of Minnesota. The museum made a complete grizzly bear costume to go with it. This costume took 3 bear hides sewn together



Hunt carves the world's largest-in-diameter totem pole for the City of Duncan, British Columbia. This pole stands 24 feet high and has a diameter of 7 feet at the top


Hunt carves a 12-foot totem pole for the city of Duncan, British Columbia
Hunt carved a 30-foot totem pole for the pavilion at EXPO 88 in Brisbane, Australia



With Tim Paul, Hunt carves a 25-foot pole for the Southwest Museum in California
Hunt carves two 15-foot poles for the British Columbia pavilion at EXPO 86 in Vancouver



At the request of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, Hunt travels with Tim Paul to Windsor Great Park in England, to repair and repaint the totem pole presented to Her Majesty in 1958 by the Province of British Columbia in honor of her centennial visit to British Columbia; The pole was carved by Richard Hunt's grandfather, Mungo Martin and his father Henry Hunt. While repainting the pole, Richard met and talked with the Queen when she visited the work site
Along with Tim Paul and Eugene Arima, Hunt creates a 37-foot long Nuu- chah-nulth whaling canoe. This canoe was on exhibit at EXPO 86 in Vancouver, and has been used on many occasions by the Royal British Columbia Museum



Hunt carves and erects a 15-foot pole for the City of Liverpool, England


Hunt carves a 12-foot memorial totem in memory of Chief Freddie Williams


Assisted by Tim Paul, Hunt carved and erected a 35-foot pole for the CBC Headquarters in Vancouver


Hunt carves and erects a 15-foot pole at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Festival


Hunt completes his first solo pole, a 26-foot totem erected at the main entrance at the British Columbia Provincial Museum
Hunt carves an 8-foot totem pole for the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris



With Nuu-cha-nulth artist Tim Paul, Hunt carves a 15-foot totem pole for the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Middlesborough, England, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Cook’s arrival on Vancouver Island



Hunt carves a 15-foot totem pole for the Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan


Contact Galleria Silecchia for more Native sculptor, Richard Hunt.

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