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Description found in Archives

David Neel fonds [graphic material, sound recording]. 



Place of creation

British Columbia

32 photographs b&w 40.7 x 50.8 cm.
24 audio cassettes (ca. 22 h).
5 prints serigraphs 72.7 x 56.0 cm or smaller.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of portrait photographs (32 images selected from an original group of 55), sound recordings and original prints (5) by British Columbia native Indian artist, David Neel (b. 1960). The first two categories/groups were taken and/or recorded by the artist for the series "Our Chiefs and Elders" and document the leaders of British Columbia's Native Indian communities. (In two of the sound recordings Neel has also discussed his work and local events.) The third category/group contains the artist's visual records of certain important contemporary events significantly affecting the First Nations peoples at the time that these works were created (1990-1991) and include the following: Elijah Harper's role in the Meech Lake negotiations; the Oka stand-off between the Quebec Provincial police, Canadian Army units and the Mohawk peoples; the Gitskan and Wet'suet'en peoples land-claim trial; and the struggles of the Innu peoples represented by the social problems of the Davis Inlet community and the issue of low-level military test flights in the North. Also included in the print category is the artist's portrait impression of the make-up of his own family genealogy using traditional Kwagiutl art forms. Here he has also represented his artistic lineage traced back through several generations.

Sound recordings
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
Graphic (art)
90: Open
Archival reference no.

Terms of use

Sound recordings Reproduction and use in any form requires the written permission of the donor and copyright holder, David Neel.
Copyright: David Neel
Credit: David Neel / National Archives of Canada.

See MISACS database for item-level listing of sound recordings. (Electronic)

All photographs are described online in MINISIS-DAPDCAP database. (Electronic)

All prints are described online in MINISIS-ICON database. (Electronic)

Additional name(s)

Biography / Administrative history

David Neel Jr. (1960- ) -. The hereditary Kwagiutl carver, photographer, print-maker and artist, David Neel Jr., of the Fort Rupert Indian Band was born in Vancouver, B.C., in 1960, to a non-native European mother, Karen Clemenson, and a Fort Rupert (Tsaxis) Kwagiutl father, David Neel Sr. (1937-1961). Coming from a family of native artists that has excelled in image-making for generations, Neel developed an interest in drawing and other art forms at an early age. His paternal grandmother, Ellen Neel, was the first Native Indian woman carver on the Northwest Coast and she had learned her carving skills from her maternal grandfather, Charlie James, a prolific master carver in the early part of the last century whose distinctive carving style has since come to be considered the true "Traditional" Kwagiutl style. David Neel's father and his great-great uncle, Mungo Martin, were also experienced carvers, the former having learned from his mother (Ellen Neel [Kakasolas], 1916-1966), the latter having also acquired his carving skills under James' tutelage.

In his late teens, Neel had first considered a career in Journalism while studing Fine Art, Anthropology and Photo-journalism at Mount Royal College in Calgary (1978-1980); where his mother had moved after his father's death. It was here that he had first discovered his real interest and aptitude for photography which subsequently led him to undertake studies at the University of Kansas, internationaly known for its school of photo-journalism. Here Neel developed both his technical and creative skills in photography, while continuing his other studies in Fine Art and Anthropology (1980-1982).

Upon completion of his University studies, he travelled and lived for a some time in Mexico and then accepted a position in a Dallas, Texas photography studio where he learned the business aspects of commercial photography. Neel returned to Vancouver in 1987 to set up his own commercial studio and, at the same time, undertook advertising and editorial work for a number of clients including: "Studio"; "Canadian Art"; "Western Living"; "Equity" and "Imperial Oil Review". It was here that he first developed the idea of presenting a more accurate image of the B.C. Native peoples to a largely uninformed non-Native Canadian public accustomed to stereotypes and misconceptions. The series of portrait photographs and accompanying sound recording interviews taken and/or made by the artist from 1988-1990 for the exhibition, "Our Chiefs and Elders" represents the flowering of his artistic studies and experiences at home and abroad. These photographs document the leaders of British Columbia's Native Indian communities. They depict the sitters in four different portrait modes (or categories) and include: "the Ceremonial"; "the Personality"; "the Environmental" and "the Action". In the first category, the sitters are shown wearing the regalia and holding the symbols of hereditary rank. In the second category, people are dressed in everyday garb; so as to focus the attention of the viewer to the sitter. In the third category the sitters are shown in their personal surroundings; while in the last community leaders are portrayed in their public roles.

David Neel's specialty in photography is depicting people, mainly in black and white images that he meticulously processes and prints by hand. The exhibition "Our Chiefs and Elders" comprising 55 portrait photographs was initially presented at the North Vancouver Capilano Longhouse and at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology. It subsequently travelled to First Nations communities all over British Columbia and then to other locations in Canada and the United States.

In his carving/sculpture, another area of specialization for the artist, Neel works mainly in wood specializing in traditional masks about contemporary concerns, as well as regalia from Kwagiutl mythology and potlatch culture. In this regard, he uses the work of his ancestors as the starting point for his own interpretation of carving and flat design. A further dimension to David Neel's creative output has been his work in the print medium in which he has dealt largely with Canadian and foreign issues affecting First Nations peoples, in the 1990's. In addition to the above, the artist is also known for his work in glass, precious metals and for his painting.

In 1994-1995 David Neel's studio was located in Campbell River, B.C., in the North Vancouver Island area, where he owned and operated The Raven Moon Gallery. In the Summer of 1995 the artist re-located his studio to North Vancouver; where he presently resides. David Neel's works have been exhibited and acquired by numerous Art Galleries, Museums, Archives and private collectors within Canada and abroad. His native Indian name, inherited from his father, is 'T'la'lala'wis' (literally: "A meeting of whales coming together). Summary of various selected biographical references/passages contained in magazine, newspaper and exhibition articles/literature about David Neel and his work, as well as other biographical references contained in studio news releases received directly from the artist. (See photographer file PH1-1419, in WMB Rm. 1020, and artist's file 705-2803, in WMB Rm 1081.)

Subject heading

1. Neel, David
2. Indians of North America British Columbia
3. Indiens d'Amérique Colombie-Britannique
4. Native peoples in art.
5. Autochtones dans l'art .
6. Indians of North America Social conditions. British Columbia
7. Indiens d'Amérique Conditions sociales. Colombie-Britannique


Related control no.

1. 1991-279 DAP
2. 1991-344 DAP
3. 1992-368 DAP
4. 1992-631 DAP
5. 1995-144 DAP
6. 119-080107-8
7. 119-080144-2
8. 119-080165-5
9. 120-080097-4
10. 123-040191-1