People / James Sewid

Native Chief. A member of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, James Sewid was born in Alert Bay in 1913. As an infant, Sewid lost his father in a logging accident. At the funeral, Sewid received several additional names including Poogleedee, meaning, “guests never leave his feasts hungry.” This would be the title of his autobiography, Guests Never Leave Hungry: The Autobiography of James Sewid (1969). Raised primarily on Village Island, Sewid began fishing on his grandfather’s boat at age twelve, and married a high-ranking girl the following year. The owner of his own fishing boat by 1940, Sewid moved his family to Alert Bay in 1945. The first elected chief of the Nimpkish First Nation, Sewid was influential in the restoration of the potlatch ceremony. He was selected as the subject of No Longer Vanishing (1955), a documentary about the revival of Aboriginal traditions by the National Film Board. He was also instrumental in the Big House project in Alert Bay and generating interest in Native crafts. Sewid passed away in 1988.