Xwalacktun was born and raised in Squamish. His mother is originally from Squamish and Alert Bay (Coast Salish, Kwakiutl) while his father was Coast Salish (Squamish). Xwalacktun was given his indigenous name by his father, Pekultn, who was a hereditary chief, originally from the Seymour Creek North Vancouver area. This artist gained his skills and education from Emily Carr College of Art and Capilano College, but also feels he learned a lot through trial and error.
Xwalacktun (Born Rick Harry) is an artist whose works are recognized internationally. In 2005 he received an honorable award from the North Vancouver Arts Council which acknowledged his contributions both locally and world-wide. A multi-million dollar home in Whistler featuring Xwalacktun’s four carved house posts received a 2002 Gold Georgie Award for Best Custom Builder in BC and Best Single Family Detached Home 3500 Square Feet And Over. We also know him for the numerous and continuing work he has done with a large number of schools.
Xwalacktun’s works are seen throughout Vancouver and the surrounding areas. A widely recognized piece is a set of double doors made from yellow cedar, both sides fully carved, for BC Hydro’s main building in Vancouver and Burnaby. Harrison Hot Springs Resort commissioned Xwalacktun to complete an original set of doors placed at the entrance of its spa. A 41.5 foot red cedar pole was completed for a new gallery in New Hampshire, USA.
The North Vancouver Arts Council contracted Xwalacktun to do a print of a historic site for the new millenium. He is one out of twelve artists involved in this project. In the year 2001 he was invited to Scotland to promote the country’s totem pole project and had returned in 2002, 2003 and 2005 to travel Scotland demonstrating his unique carving techniques. Xwalacktun will be going back to carve more Totem Poles in 2014.
Xwalacktun worked on designs for the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympic Bid. Design work included initial icon development and laser etched designs created especially for the 2010 Bid Box.
Various pieces have recently been arranged to be carved for a gallery in New York. He has also completed seven relief poles for three exclusive homes in Whistler. Xwalacktun has created many major pieces for the Squamish Nation Recreation Centers, one building located in Squamish, the other in North Vancouver. Two salmon house post carvings, measuring twelve and half feet tall by three feet wide and carved in red cedar, were the focus of a carving course directed by Xwalacktun through the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Two different house post carvings were installed at “The Gallery” at Chateau Whister in 2003. He also completed a ten foot carving of a Bobcat in yellow cedar for Brookswood Secondary School in Langley. There are more than eighty of his pieces in the School Districts within the Lower Mainland.
Healing and growth have become a central theme around the work Xwalacktun does. By focusing on how the traditional stories relate to his own life, he shows us how to use this ancient knowledge to help heal ourselves. Respect for all people , regardless of race or religion is a central theme for him. The giving out of positive energy and seeing it come back through the kids is the reward that continues to feed Xwa-lack-tun’s spirit. This spirit of love is pervasive through his work, whether it be in wood, paper, stone, glass, metal or simply with people. All things grow and are healed through love.