Christopher Smith

Northwest Coast Art, First Nations Studies, Identity Production, Social Capital, Continuity, Formalism, Attribution, Art Market Economies, Cultural Tourism, Repatriation, Material Culture, Representation, Modernity

Research summary:

My research focuses on historic Nuxalk carvers and their connections to contemporary Nuxalk artists working today. I am particularly interested in the way that contemporary Nuxalk artists mobilize their relationships with these historic carvers (specifically Louis Snow, Dick Snow, and Willie Mack) as social capital within their community, between each other, and in the broader art market. In the process of recording these connections, my research will seek to illustrate continuity in Nuxalk material production, and will document both family and regional styles of Nuxalk art over time. I will also document any work by previously unattributed hands that may come to light during fieldwork. This research will also answer questions about the impact of outside forces, such as museums, publications, and the ethnographic art market on Nuxalk perceptions of early historic artists and their contributions to Nuxalk material culture.

Master of Arts, Anthropology (Museum Studies), University of British Columbia, 2019 (Expected)
Thesis Title:
“Thunder and Being: Attribution, Continuity, and Symbolic Capital in a Nuxalk Community”
Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Kramer

Bachelor of Arts, Cultural Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009
Minor: Alaska Native Studies


2011. “A Checklist of Model Totem Makers” in Carvings and Commerce: Model Totem Poles, 1880-2010. Edited by Hall, Michael D. and Pat Glascock, 201-213. University of Washington Press, and Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon; Seattle; Mendel Art Gallery.


2018. “Yakuglas’ Legacy: The Life and Times of Charlie James” by Ronald Hawker”
Forthcoming invited book review in Journal of Museum Anthropology.


2017. With Dr. Rosita Kaaháni Worl. “Tlingit Ixt’ (Shaman) Amulet Summary (07/13/2017).” Sealaska Heritage Institute website.


2017. “Figure 2: A Set of Halibut Gear.” in Yá ch’áagu aan cháatl dusyeegi at (This ancient thing used to haul up halibut): A Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Halibut Hook Sourcebook. Page 19. Juneau: Sealaska Heritage Institute.


“Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land” (2018)
Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau, Alaska.
Walter Soboleff Center – Nathan Jackson Gallery
Long-term interactive exhibit highlighting 3500 locations and place names in Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages, as well as traditional fishing technologies in Southeast Alaska.
Research Specialist: Transcriptions, Content Writer

“Alaska Native Masks: Art & Ceremony” (2017)
Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau, Alaska.
Walter Soboleff Center – Nathan Jackson Gallery
Alaska Native mask exhibit featuring over 50 masks from every region of Alaska, both contemporary and traditional.
Research Specialist: Catalogue Contributor, Object Lender.

“Carvings and Commerce: Model Totem Poles 1880-2010” (2010)
Mendel Art Gallery of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Exhibit examines the issues of politics, cultural identity, tradition and economics that have shaped the evolution of the model totem pole for over 130 years.
Consultant: Object Selection, Attributions, Object Lender.

“Alaska Native Market Art: Totems and Tourists in the 20th Century” (2007)
Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska.
Featured over 60 made-for-sale objects from Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures in Alaska, spanning the 20th century.
Guest Curator


“Due North: Intercultural Collaboration, Agency, and the Emergence of Contemporary Alaska Native Art 1960-2018.” New Perspectives in Native American Art History and Museum Studies. University of Oklahoma. Norman, OK. September 2018.

“This is the Place of the Spirit Halibut: Connecting Oral Traditions and Material Culture.”
Poster presented at AMPlified: Voices, Landscapes, Belongings. University of British Columbia. Vancouver, BC. March 2018.

“The Magnetic North: Markets, Modernism, and Making Alaska Native Art.”
Invited speaker at Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center. Anchorage, AK. February 2018.

“An Exploration of Stylistic Variation in the Hall-Glascock Collection of Model Totem Poles.”
Invited speaker at private event. Hamtramck, MI. September 2009.

“Tlingit Tourist Art 1870 to Present.” Office of Undergraduate Research Studies Award Recipients Presentations. University of Alaska Anchorage. Anchorage, AK. April 2007.

“Working With What You’ve Got: Regional and Environmental Impacts on Alaska Native Material Culture.”
Invited speaker at Alaska Native Rural Outreach Program (Cama’i Room). University of Alaska Anchorage. Anchorage, AK. October 2006.

“The Tourist Tradition: Anonymous Tlingit Artists of the 20th Century.” Alaska Anthropological Association 32nd Annual Meeting. Anchorage, Alaska. March 2005.

International Tuition Award, University of British Columbia , 2018
The Tina and Morris Wagner Foundation Fellowship, Affiliated Fellowship, University of British Columbia , 2018
Jacobs Research Funds, Whatcom Museum Society , 2018
The Francis Reif Scholarship, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia , 2018
Graduate Student Research Award, Faculty of Arts, University of British Columbia , 2018
Graduate Student Entrance Scholarship, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia , 2017
International Tuition Award, University of British Columbia , 2017
Special Research Grant – Sitka Tlingit Artists, Mendel Art Gallery of Saskatoon , 2008
Office of Undergraduate Research Studies Award, University of Alaska Anchorage , 2007
Outstanding Service to Rural and Native Students Award, Alaska Native Rural Outreach Program, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3 Credit Tuition Waiver , 2006