John Marston

John Marston
Coast Salish, 1978

Shaman’s Mask
Red cedar


Carver John Marston was born into a family of exceptional artists in Ladysmith, British Columbia. He has worked with a number of prominent Northwest Coast carvers, including Simon Charlie, Silas Coon, Shawn Karpes, Wayne Young, and his brother Luke Marston. He has drawn inspiration from close study of museum collections and from cultural exchanges. In 2006 he traveled to the Sepik River and went to Papua New Guinea on a cultural exchange, working with New Guinean carvers. The following year, he and his brother Luke participated in an artist exchange in Japan. His experience in Japan was the subject of two television programs broadcast widely in both Canada and Japan. In 2009, John was honored with the British Columbia Creative Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art. Later that year, he participated in the ground-breaking international exhibition “Hailans to Ailans: Contemporary Art of Papua New Guinea.” John’s work is included in many public and private collections.



The Haida and their neighbors held in common a set of beliefs about the way the human world interacted with the natural and supernatural worlds, though the Haida also had some profound differences in outlook. The shared concepts centered on curing the sick, ensuring the supply of fish and game, and controlling or at least influencing the weather. Among the ranks of shaman were specialists whose powers were particularly effective within a selected range of tasks such as securing the outcome of major enterprises like trading expeditions or warfare.

Both genders could be shaman, but more often it was men who chose the calling. Women shaman focused more on curing illnesses and the difficulties of childbirth and, in rare cases, on power over animals and fish. Although shaman could come from any rank except slaves, they were usually members of high-ranking families, often even the brother of a chief; thus, together they combined both secular and supernatural control at the head of a lineage.