A good example of Charlie's signature and where it was placed on a flat space on the bottom of the back. His Kwakwala name Yakuglas was often added under his English name.

We can see the work that Charlie put into even a small totem. Here the wings of the eagle, and the fins of the killer whale, were carved separately and then fitted into holes and slots specially cut into the central column.

Reputedly put together without ever using nails, the passage of time has loosened the fit and someone, a long time ago, used nails to fasten the killer whale's fins to the central column.

Below another fine example of a smaller carving. One can see that the style and colours Charlie uses are quite similar making it quite easy to pick out his pieces even when they are not signed. But signed pieces remain the valued items of choice for collectors.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Eagle Killer Whale Totem - Charlie James c 1920
Orig. yellow cedar - Image Size - 22 cm
Found - Vancouver, BC
Go to Ellen Neel

The top, bottom, and back of another Charlie James pole. This time the eagle has folded wings but the killer whale's fins are there again as separate pieces.

Far left is a child's paddle that Charlie carved and decorated sometime in the early part of the 20th century, and it's signature, bottom.

Right still another Charlie James piece. The more elaborate, the harder they are to find.

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James Page 42

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Totem Pole Carver Charlie James (1867 - 1938)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fine example of the work of Charlie James, of Alert Bay, British Columbia.

Charlie was one of three leading Kwakwaka'wakw (pronounced Kwok-wok-ee-wok, and formerly Kwakiutl) master carvers who revived totem pole carving to a high level among the North West coastal people in the period from 1890 to 1960.

Charlie James, Mungo Martin, and Ellen Neel, were from three different generations of Kwakwaka'wakw people, but belonged to the same family, and had their spiritual home in Alert Bay on Vancouver Island, where they all lived and carved at different times, and where they are buried today.

The tradition was begun by Charlie James, son of an American father and a Kwakwaka'wakw mother.


Eagle Killer Whale Totem - Charlie James c 1920
Orig. yellow cedar - Image Size - 33 cm
Found - Toronto, ON