Lionel Samuels was born in 1963 in Masset on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, Canada. He is a member of the Haida Nation and he takes the Raven, revered as the hero, creator, trickster and transformer, as his family crest symbol.
Lionel reveals that it was only natural that he began making Northwest Coast Native art since it was an integral part of his family heritage. He has been carving argillite since the age of twenty and he is the grandson of a famous argillite carver, Captain Andrew Brown.
Lionel is versed in carving argillite, cedar wood, silver and gold and he paints originals. His workmanship reveals a great deal of intricacy, balance and depth. His argillite pieces are commonly carved on both sides, when in pendant form, and his sculptures, whether miniature or large have a four dimensional quality that is distinctive and sought-after by many collectors.
The word argillite (derived from Argillaceous, argil meaning clay), is used to describe a dark shaley well-consolidated rock found in many places including Haida Gwaii and Southeastern Alaska. The slatechuck argillite found on Haida Gwaii, however is different from other argillite in having no quartz or feldspar, and in being composed of a series of clay with highly complex organic matter.
A British Columbia Order-in-council dated May 7, 1941 provided for the sale to the federal government of the land “containing deposit of black slate for the use and benefit of the Haidas”. The argillite deposit was thus placed in the hands of the Haida in perpetuity.