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Marcus Alfred was born and raised in Alert Bay, British Columbia, and started carving when he was only 8 years old. Alfred apprenticed with his father Wayne Alfred, his uncle Bruce Alfred, his grandfather Henry Speck, as well as Beau Dick. He was related to the Hunts of Fort Rupert, and was a descendant of George Hunt. He had the hereditary right to carve in both the Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit styles.
Alfred was best known for his powerful traditional masks inspired by his Kwakwaka’wakw heritage and family rights. He was also an active contributor to his culture, participating in potlatching, dancing, and communicating oral histories and cultural traditions to others. When Alfred was 12 he was initiated to the Hamat'sa, the Winter Dance ceremonies, a complex and integral part of Kwakwaka’wakw culture. Alfred's potlatch name was P'adzismaxwa, which is a Hamat'sa name passed down from his great-grandfather.