Seaweed, Willie (1873 - 1967)

Culture/Community

'Nakwaxda'xw (Ba'as)

Biography

Chief Willie Seaweed, known as Kwaxitola ("Smoky-Top"), was born c. 1873, at a time when Kwakwakw'akw culture flourished. He died in 1967 having seen nearly a century of technological change, such as dugout canoes replaced by diesel-powered fishing boats and airplanes. A 'Nakwaxda'xw chief, he was born just eleven years before the passage of the anti-potlatch law. He did, however, create very elaborate art for potlatches. "The name 'Seaweed' is an anglicization of the Kwakwala 'Siwid', which can be translated as 'Paddling owner', 'Recipient of paddling', or 'Paddled to', all metaphors for a great chief who sponsors potlatches to which guests come from far off" (Holm 1983). Seaweed was a singer, storyteller, and artist who kept the traditional potlatches alive through the years in which it was illegal. Willie Seaweed was a traditional artist who passed on his skills to a younger generation and his work is scattered throughout collections in Canada and the United States.