Gitxsan Art
Ya'Ya  -  Charles Peter Heit

Biography

I began carving at a place called K'san in nearby Hazelton.  At that time a lot of really good artistsworked together there.  Ken Mowatt, Vernon Stephens, Art Sterritt and Earl Muldon.   I learned from all of them, but mostly from my Chief and uncle Walter Harris (GEEL).  I started an apprenticeship with my uncle that lasted about 4 years. We hunted and fished and carved together 8 dayz a week.  When I wuz old enough, I wuz put into K'san's 'Kitanmax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art'.  I continued my apprenticeship at the same time.  When I graduated from the art school, they hired me as an instructor.  That wuz a great and extremely lucky start for my career.  I wuz 18 years old.  Right from the start my uncle had me working on some of his many large commissions.  At first I got to hollow out the backs of big totems and as my craftsmanship improved, he gave me small portions of the front to carve.  And when I won my own commissions, I could only think ofgetting my uncle Walterto help me and he did so veryhappilyand proudly.  I also got to work on a large totem with Ken Mowatt, we made that one for Kansas City Missouri.  About the same year I got invited to give carving demonstrations at the 'World Artists Symposium' in Toronto.  That wuz a nice time and my first ride in a jet airplane.  Another time I wuz helping my uncle with a 40 foot totem pole that wuz raised at University of B.C.  in Vancouver.  They made a documentary film about that one but I wuz being camera shy.  K'san wuz a great place to learn but I wanted to spread my works around.  Istarted selling my carvings in Prince Rupert and then I moved to Vancouver for a couple of years.  I met some more Indian artists and gallery owners and sold everything I made.

When I got homesick I moved back to my Kispiox village.  A while later I got invites to go to Ottawa and show them all how I can carve at the Canada Canoe Festival.  On the way home the plane stops in Vancouver and I meet Robert Davidson.  He wants me to help him with some big totems.  So me and Reg Davidson started a 2 year 'apprenticeship' with RD.  We made two 30-foot totems and a 50 -footer.  All 3 ended up in Toronto.  We also made masks for Roberts dance group.  Next Robert wants my help with some more large totems for Pepsi Art Gardens in NYC? I wuz working on those until my uncle Walter called me and asked me to go to Ottawa with him to carve a 40 foot totem for Canada Day.  So I quit working for RD and moved 3000 miles away.  After helping my uncle, I stayed in the east and worked on a few of my own commissions, including a large blanket for Expo 86.  About a year later I got invites to the 'Native Business Summit' in Toronto.  I met some stone carvers from Six Nations Reservation.  So I moved there with Benny Thomas and Vince Bomberry and they showed me all about rock carving.  When I got lonesome for home I started heading west. Back to Kispiox.  The centre of the world.  I came home and briefly retired from the starvin art business.  I got fattened up by hunting and fishing. That's when I noticed my Gitxsan jungle wuz disappearing fast, so I got involved in LAND CLAIMS.  Delgamuuk vs the Queen.  I became a computer expert working with g.i.s.  mapping equipment.  I wuz also a teaching a few computer courses at the same time.  Then one day I started carving again, I got invites to participate in an art show at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  That was called 'Topographies' I made a real nice Chiefs chair for them to show the world. (This chair and another are both now on display at K'san) One summer I worked with my cousin Earl Muldon in nearby Kitwancool village.  We were makin full size duplicates of some of the very best old totem poles in the world.  I got to do work on three large poles that year.  Real totems for real people.  I continued to enter art shows in Vancouver and even made it onto the cover of two catalogs.  Then I finally got to do a big carving that would stay in my own village.  A large wall panel for our new school. Now that’s my favourite carvin!!?!!