American Art


B. 1948


Tsungani, Fearon Smith Jr. or “Smitty” is the younger brother of Lelooska and Patty Fawn. Tsungani, meaning “he who excels” was given a very important Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) name, Qa7axtal’es, in 1968. Qa7axatal’es implying “young herald” is translated as “He who arises early and invites the people into the house to eat”. When Lelooska passed away in 1996, Tsungani became clan chief of the Wiummasgum Clan of the House of Lelooska and the House of Sewide. The name Gixken meaning “Chief of Chiefs” was also passed to him.

Growing up in a family already deeply involved in Indian arts, it was natural for him to fall in step with the rest of the family and become an artist. He is a skilled artist in all mediums of Northwest Coast Indian art but devotes most of his time to woodcarving. He is best known for his ceremonial masks, rattles, bentwood boxes and chests done in both traditional and contemporary styles. He particularly enjoys the creation of shaman figures and masks based on historical pieces.

In addition, he is deeply interested in Indian history and the history of the fur trade and has done extensive research in both fields.

Tsungani was one of the main dancers in the family’s educational programs, an expert at handling the large, articulated masks—a skill much respected by the Old People. At traditional potlatches, he was often called upon to perform with the masks.

As Clan Chief, Tsungani devotes his time to continuing the legacy of his family. He is now the storyteller and narrator in the family educational presentations. Retired from dancing, he continues to share his vast knowledge and skills with the next generation. As a woodcarver he continues to work in the traditional styles creating masks, totem poles, bowls and rattles.

Keeping with tradition, Tsungani waited four years to potlatch as chief. In September 2001, Tsungani held a memorial potlatch for Lelooska and Shona-hah. The potlatch is an initiation ceremony for the children into the various dancing societies. Family members are given their Native Indian names which can only be legalized by the potlatch system. It is also a purification rite for any injustices done to us or by us against society as a whole and by our potlatch Laws we make things right by giving gifts to our guests as they are witnesses that these events took place.

Tsungani is married to Julia Stoll, and they have two daughters, Mariah Stoll-Smith Reese and Lottie Stoll-Smith. Mariah is married to Eric Reese and they have a daughter, Mara Isabel born in September of 2002, and son Isaac Edward born in January 2004.