David Boxley


David Boxley

David Boxley is a Tsimshian carver from Metlakatla, Alaska. David’s inspiration comes from his ancestors of the Tsimshian Tribe from Northern British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. David has dedicated over 40 years of his life to the revitalization and rebirth of Tsimshian arts and culture. David not only wants to be the best artist he can be, but he wants to inspire and influence the continuation of this beautiful art form and cultural practices.

David has received three important Sm’algyax names in his lifetime. Names are either passed through family lines or to mark important life passages or accomplishments. It is the responsibility of each person to live a good life to make the name honorable and strong, so that when it is time to pass the name on, the name is good. David takes pride for each of his names and works everyday to make his names good.

Nuketsismaask, Means "Works with the Cedarbark", given to me in 1987 by my Grandfather
Ksgooga Yaawk, Means "First to Potlatch", given to me in 1982 by Alfred Eaton
Niis Bupts'aan, Means "Grandfather of Totem Poles, Given to me by Laxskiig (Eagle Clan) 2019


It is so important that we as Native people hold on to and be proud of the beautiful culture we come from and more importantly, we are responsible to pass it on to the next generation- It belongs to all of us.



Born in 1952, David was raised by his grandparents. From them he learned many Tsimshian traditions including the language, Sm’algyax. After high school he attended Seattle Pacific University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974. He became a teacher and basketball coach to Junior and Senior high students in Alaska and Washington. While teaching in Metlakatla in 1980 he began devoting considerable time to the study of traditional Tsimshian carving. Through researching ethnographic material and carvings from museum collections, David has learned the traditional carving methods of his grandfather’s people.

“I have been fortunate to do what I love for over 40 years and I still become full of awe and excitement to learn, teach, speak, experience and live a culture that I love. I have much more to learn and create and will listen to the old voices as they tell us “create us again, use us again, celebrate us again.”



David has achieved national recognition as an Alaskan Tsimshian master artist for his design and carving accomplishments showcasing and demonstrating worldwide. David has brought traditions of his ancestors to life carving 80 Totem Poles from 5’ up to 40’ located throughout the world. David with his son David R. Boxley also created the largest carved and painted House Front in modern times, located in Juneau, Alaska. David’s career of work also includes countless Panels, Bentwood Boxes, Masks, Rattles and Drums and many other traditional Tsimshian art pieces that can be found in public and private art collections around the world. David creates art to ensure the traditions are revived and used, whether used in a dance group or belonging to a collection, he shares how and why these art pieces are in important part of his people’s history.



David formed a dynamic performance group, the Git Hoan Dancers (People of the Salmon) that has achieved international prominence bringing Tsimshian dance to the world. Because the ancestors were forbidden to practice their cultures David began writing new songs and choreograph dances to demonstrate the practice of his ancestors of sharing song, dance and oral traditions. The Git Hoan Dancers are one of very few groups that use a wide variety of articulated masks, drums and rattles in performance to demonstrate the living art to the world.

The Git-Hoan Dancers have earned the reputation of high energy, enthusiastic, entertaining, educational, and spirit filling with stories and dances.




David has been deeply involved in the rebirth of Tsimshian culture through organizing and hosting Potlatches in Alaska and Washington. He has been responsible for the first Seattle Northwest Coast Potlatch in one hundred years. This historic event was held in 1996. It was such a success that another was held in 1997. David was also responsible for reintroducing the potlatch back to his home village of Metlakatla, Alaska. These Potlatches involved traditional cultural activities such as clan adoption, name giving, gift giving, ceremonial regalia dedication, and memorials as well as song and dance.



David’s art is in collections throughout the World including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Walt Disney World Epcot Canadian Pavilion, the King and Queen of Sweden, the Emperor of Japan, the President of West Germany, the Mayor of Chongging (China), Microsoft, Knott’s Berry Farm and numerous other private collectors of fine Northwest Coast art.



David has taught and demonstrated at museums and institutes worldwide, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.; Museum of History & Industry; Seattle, WA; Burke Museum, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Sheldon Jackson College, Sitka, Alaska; Sitka Fine Arts Camp, Sitka, AK; Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, AK; Cornish Art Institute, Seattle WA; Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ; Glasgow Arts Center, Glasgow, Scotland; Festival of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii; Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Canada; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; Epcot Center, Disney World, Florida the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage Alaska; Yakutat and Hoonah Community Schools, Alaska; and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.



“Artists from long ago inspire new generations of Native people to carry on the traditions of which they began.
I am determined and dedicated to become the finest artist that I can be while at the same time helping to revitalize and carry on the rich culture of my tribe:
I want my sons and other young Native people to be proud of their heritage.”