CHRIS COOK III
Ogwilagamey (Chris Cook III) was born in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay) and is a hereditary chief of the ‘Namgis. Being born into a high ranking and traditional family, Cook is an avid storyteller and historian – a gift that he is able to harness through his creativity. As a child, Cook loved sketching, and studied metal work and machinery while in high school. In 1998, he received his BA in History from the University of Victoria, and was also enrolled in the silversmith courses at Camosun College while he was at UVIC. His prior metal working skills and sketching abilities were soon realized, and he was eagerly designing and producing art jewellery full time.
Cook credits Francis Dick for encouraging him to apply his metal working skills with Kwakwaka’wakw design. He was one of the first ‘Namgis artists to start inlaying semi-precious gem stones into his jewellery, something that has become a signature of his workmanship. Cook has spent many years refining his skills as a jeweler, even traveling to Italy to apprentice with the famous Bulgarian Silversmith Valentin Yotkov.
More recently, Cook has been experimenting with a metal-rolling technique, creating unique copper pendants with abstract designs. He has crafted many unusual pieces from silver, including silver goblets, beautiful lockets, a silver adorned headdress and even an exquisite gold and emerald dragonfly urn-pendant with a hollow body for holding ashes. Innovative, professional and prolific, Chris Cook III is dedicated to producing quality pieces, and has made a number of custom ordered rings, bracelets and pendants for us. If you are interested in commissioning a piece by Cook, please contact us for more information. Cook speaks and teaches Kwak’wala, and is active in his community as a dancer, singer and historian.
2006-2007: Totems to Turquoise:Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest; American Museum of Natural History
2011: Chasing Form: New Directions in Repousse; Group Exhibition – Alcheringa Gallery, Victoria BC
Lapis Lazuli & Turquoise Namxeyaliguye Pendant by Chris Cook III
During the great flood, the Creator told an ancestor of the 'Namgis to watch for a great sea monster who would keep him safe during the mayhem. As the rains fell and the waters began to rise, the ancestor stood near the shore waiting. Finally, Namxeyaliguwe surfaced, causing the waters to rise further - but he gently hovered by shore and allowed the man to climb onto his back. This man was bestowed with many gifts, including transformation into a salmon so he would have the ability to breathe under water.
After the ancestor was returned to shore on the north eastern side of Vancouver Island at Nimpkish Lake, he was assisted by Thunderbird in building the first structure at what became the ancestral village of the ‘Namgis.
Namxeyaliguwe is said to be shaped like a giant halibut, and is so large a human looks like a speck of dust on his back. Namxeyaliguwe possesses “crystal” on his forehead where the third eye is located. Though crystal is not the direct translation for the word used by the Kwakwaka’wakw, the significance is that many legends a centered around the supernatural gifts one receives from this crystal, including the ability to fly, the ability to transform, and the ability to heal.
“After the Flood the former people were transformed into animals and stones. When the waters receded, the monster Nemkya’likyo* (= Only One) rose from the depths of the ocean. He looked like a huge halibut carrying a man on its narrow edge. He put him ashore at Qulkh and returned again to the deep.”
From Indian Myths & Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America; A translation of Franz Boas 1895 Edition of Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas – Page 305
*Nemkya’likyo is commonly spelled Namxeyaliguwe today, though spellings vary.
Franz Boas Indian Myths & Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America: A Translation of Franz Boas' 1895 Edition of Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas (2006)
Conversations with 'Namgis Chris Cook III