Martin, Mungo (c. 1879 - 1962)

Culture/Community

Kwagu'l (Tsaxis)

Biography

Mungo Martin was the son of Yaxnukwelas, an important person in the ranking system of the Kwikwasut'inuxw of Gilford Island. His father died when he was a boy, and his mother later married the well-known carver Charlie James. Martin trained and worked as a carver in Tsaxis (Fort Rupert) until local demand for ceremonial carving dwindled. He then became a fisherman. In 1949, Martin left his home community to work at UBC on a four-year project to restore old totem poles and to carve two new memorial poles with his family’s crest figures. These were pivotal years for the development of the Museum of Anthropology and its relationships with Aboriginal artists and communities. As a respected carver, ceremonialist, teacher, and song composer among his own people, Mungo Martin also recorded his personal knowledge about Kwakwaka’wakw histories and songs, and encouraged community members to sell their regalia to the Museum. The resulting collection is unique for its direct ties to families who hold ongoing rights to the privileges represented.