Ellen Neel Portrait Mask

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My grandmother, Ellen Neel, is credited with being the first woman totem pole carver. Historically, the carving of totems and ceremonial regalia was done exclusively by men. Ellen was the first to break down that barrier and helped open the door for talented Native women artists to follow.

She is also acknowledged as being the first Northwest coast Native artist to use silk screen print making in her art, which went on to become a major artistic media for many Aboriginal artists.

Alder Wood. Acrylic Paint. Abalone Shell

14" x 10" x 6"


A traditional Northwest Coast Native artist for 30 years, Neel began his career as a professional photographer, but chose to become a Kwakiutl artist and follow in his family's footsteps. He apprenticed with master carvers Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick starting in 1987, when he returned from working for several years as a photographer in the USA. He has carved First Nations masks, totem poles, dug-out canoes and hand engraved gold and silver jewelry.

He comes from a family of traditional Kwakwak’awakw (Kwakiutl) artists, including: Dave Neel Senior, Ellen Neel, Mungo Martin and Charlie James. He has authored two books on Northwest Coast Native culture and was involved with the return of the dug-out canoe tradition in the 1990’s. His adult children, Edwin and Ellena, are carrying on the family tradition and also are Canadian Aboriginal artists.


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