Bill Henderson is a Kwakwaka’wakw Master Carver and a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River, BC. He is one of seventeen children born to artist Sam Henderson and wife, May Quocksister Henderson. Sam originated from Ba’as (Blunden Harbour) and moved to Campbell River after marrying Bill’s mother.
“From an early age, I witnessed my father carve. Because he didn’t talk much, he just picked up the tools and watched him. Soon after, Dad wouldn’t let me use his tools because he made his own tools and wanted me to learn how to make my own tools. I didn’t carve alone, my brothers Ernie, Dan and Mark were artists too. During my lifetime, carving has taken me around the world. Growing up, we had no presents but we always ate well and had dinner together at the table. Our family was poor but we grew up living off the land and wow I still had a neat childhood. We didn’t have money, so I carved my own guns and boats as a child. One time I put a string on one of the boats and pulled it along the water in Campbell River. Over the years, I did wild fishing, tree planting, logging but I always fell back to my culture from carving, fishing, hunting, and smoking a lot of fish with my family. Back in the day, our family would smoke fish for five days then just hang it on the wall. With our food, we did a lot of bartering in the community. A man came from Cumberland, with an old ford and he never wanted money. He would barter the fish for turnips and carrots. We would receive sacks and sacks for our family, once he left the house, we would bury them in the ground because we did not have freezers. I can’t say enough about growing up on the land. When I was young, my siblings and I would kick our legs near the water and ask the killer whales to visit us. We thought they listened because dozens of killer whales used to come to us. Thinking back now, maybe they thought we were seals splashing in the water” (excerpt from the Campbell River Travel website interview with Bill Henderson)
Today, you can find Bill Henderson poles in Japan, Australia, Belgium and all over the world. He has carved more than 50 totem poles that are around the world. Throughout his years of carving, he has donated many pieces to families and communities