Tony Hunt, Sr.

Tony Hunt Sr. was a hereditary chief of the North Island Kwagiulth people. He is known for his Kwagiulth-style paintings and totem poles carved from single cedar logs. Hunt Sr. was born in the Kwakwaka’wakw community of Alert Bay, British Columbia. He is the oldest son of Henry and Helen Hunt. Hunt Sr. and his brothers are descendants of the renowned ethnologist George Hunt, who collected hundreds of Kwakwaka’wakw artworks for an exhibition at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His younger brothers Richard Hunt and Stanley C. Hunt also became professional carvers.

From an early age, Hunt Sr. trained in woodcarving with his maternal grandfather, the legendary Chief Mungo Martin. Between 1958 and 1972, Hunt Sr. worked with Martin at the Royal Museum in Victoria. After Martin’s death in 1962, Hunt Sr. became an assistant carver to his father. He worked on restoring totem poles at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, B.C. while learning the technique and culture of traditional Kwagiulth art.

In 1969, Hunt Sr. opened the Arts of the Raven Gallery in Victoria with John Livingston. The gallery helped spur a revitalization of many traditional and emerging art forms as well as working to educate a generation of young Northwest Coast artists, such as Calvin Hunt, Art Thompson and Don Yeomans through workshop programs.

In 1984, Hunt Sr. was commissioned by Kraft Foods Inc. to carve a replacement totem pole for a Kwakwaka’wakw pole that had been donated by James L. Kraft to the city of Chicago in 1929. The pole, known as the “Kwanusila” (Thunderbird) was installed on the waterfront of Lake Michigan. After decades in the public park, the Kwanusila was sent to the Royal British Columbia Museumfor preservation and study.

Hunt Sr. designed nearly 100 full-scale totem poles during his life. His masterpiece is the Kwagiulth ceremonial Big House at Fort Rupert, which is the largest traditional native structure ever built in the Pacific Northwest.

Hunt Sr. was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and gave her three works of art.

Many of his two- and three-dimensional works have become celebrated national monuments in museums and public institutions all over the world, including the USA, Great Britain, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, China, and more.

Hunt Sr. has received many honours and awards for his contributions to Canadian art, including an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Royal Roads University, Honorary Life Member from the Alumni Association of the University of British Columbia, Commonwealth Medal of Honour, and the Order of British Columbia.


Biography sourced from