Art Thompson was born in the village of Whyac, an isolated village on the western end of Nitinaht Lake on Vancouver Island. His ancestral roots are in both the Coast Salish (Cowichan) and Nuu-chah-nulth (Ditidaht) nations. His father and grandfather were both artists known for their ceremonial pieces such as masks and regalia, as well as totem poles and canoes. Art spent much of his childhood away from both his family and cultural traditions. At the age of two, he contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalized for the next three years. Shortly after he was able to return to his family he was sent away to residential school in Port Alberni. He ran away several times before finally securing employment in the logging industry at the age of thirteen.
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