Cecil Dawson is a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw First nation, born into a large family of artists, he began his artistic career at a very young age. His father is head chief of the Mountain Goat Hunter clan and his mother comes from the Wolf clan. Cecil's cultural involvement is important to him; he is a historian and an initiated Hamatsa dancer.His grandfather Jimmy Dick, a totem and mask carver, taught Cecil the intricacies of carving. Cecil also spent time under the tutelage of his cousin, mask carver Simon Dick. Other masters who influenced Cecil's artistic gifts were his great uncles Willie Seaweed, Henry Speck, and Dick Hawkins.
His pieces are unique and to his own style, demonstrating a deeply rooted understanding of his culture. Cecil attended the Kootenay School of Art in Nelson, B.C. He thus combines the wealth of artistic knowledge obtained through family guidance with the multi media discipline of formal education. Cecil is successful in fusing both worlds through his experience and interpretations of tradition and legend with a grounding from his traditional culture and art forms.
Cecil's grandmother encouraged him. She told him, "Study our people's art from the past, understand and interpret it, redefine it, make it yours. Do not leave it the way you found it because it is a living, breathing thing that needs to grow". Cecil recalls that when his grandmother spoke about the art, she was speaking about the people.