Don was born in Prince Rupert in 1958.His father is a Haida from Masset, while his mother was a Metis from Slave Lake, Alberta.
His first teacher in Native art was his aunt Freda Diesing, who started giving carving lessons when he was eleven. With kindness and inexhaustible patience, Freda allowed him to continue pestering her until 1976 when, after graduating from high school, he moved to Vancouver to enroll in the Fine Arts program at Langara College.
Probably the most significant event of his college experience was in meeting Bud Mintz, then an instructor at Langara. Bud was the most instrumental in encouraging the development of Don’s career as an artist. He also introduced Don to many of the generous artists who, likewise, contributed to his progress.
In 1978, he participated in the carving of four Haida houseposts for the village of Old Massett. The project involved seven other apprentices and was supervised by Robert Davidson (his childhood idol). The lessons he learned from Robert in wood and design carried him towards his next interest – jewelry.
Here, again, he was fortunate to have two excellent teachers in Gerry Marks and Phil Janze. In 1980, Don moved to Hazelton to live with the Janze family, and to work more closely with Phil. This mutual exchange of ideas and skills lasted for two years, until finally he moved back home to Prince Rupert.
In 1983, he accepted a teaching position in Victoria, teaching basic design and carving in the public school system. As valuable as this experience was, Don eventually realized it as not for him, and so he resigned two years later.
In 1986, he accepted a job assisting Bill Reid on a totem pole commission and moved permanently to Vancouver. Primarily, he works in wood and precious metals, but also enjoys producing limited edition prints, mainly serigraphs and embossed and cast works as well. More recently, he has also had the pleasure of collaborating on fabric wall hangings and button blankets, which are sewn by his wife, Trace.