Johnathan Maxwell Henderson (Wa nu kw) is a member of the Campbell River Weiwaikum Band. He was born in Alert Bay, BC in 1969 to Sharon Whonnock (Wa nu kw) and Dan Henderson. Dan Henderson is the Hereditary Chief of the Henderson Family, and holds the name Udzistalis. When initiated as a Hamatsa dancer, Johnathan’s father gave him the name Akh Akh yala gilis that translates to “man standing on the beach with his mouth open.”
For the first 15 years of his life, he grew up with his mother’s side of the family. On three different occasions, while visiting his father, Johnathan had the rare opportunity to watch his grandfather, Sam Henderson carve totem poles, which led him to begin designing and carving on his own at the age of 13.
In 1986, Johnathan moved to Campbell River where he studied and learned more about the Kwagiulth or Kwakwaka’wakw art styles from his father and uncles, Bill and Mark Henderson. Johnathan primarily works with red and yellow cedar. He carves totem poles, masks, feast dishes, spoons (all in various sizes). In addition, he specializes in original paintings and serigraph prints. After graduating from high school in Campbell River in 1991, Johnathan moved on to Malaspina College where he received a certificate from the Professional Cook Training Program.
In 1993, he started learning traditional Kwagiulth songs under the tutelage of Chief Frank Nelson. To this day, Johnathan continues to learn from Chief Frank Nelson and other Chiefs when participating in Potlatches, Feasts and other cultural functions.
In 1996, he began carving at the Thunderbird Park carving shed, which is located on the Royal British Columbia Museum grounds in Victoria. Johnathan continued to carve there until 1999, along with fellow carvers, Sean Whonnock, Jason Hunt, Shawn Karpes and Luke Marsten, where they demonstrated, during the summer months, their carving skills to the tourist trade.
On October 30th, 1999 Johnathan and his brother, Sean Whonnock (Wa nu kw), raised a 25-foot totem pole in Thunderbird Park. The crests honour both the Henderson and Wa nu kw families. The totem pole was dedicated to the Coast Salish people, of the Victoria area, on behalf of the Kwakwala speaking people.
Johnathan is the proud father of two children, a son Darren and a daughter Cheyenne. While he raises his young family along side his life partner Laureen, he continues to develop and define his distinctive style of painting and carving.