David Robert Boxley (b.1981) was immersed in his Tsimshian culture from birth and heard his heritage language from his great-grandfather, Albert Bolton, who was born in 1894. He passed away when David was 10 years old. David Robert’s father, David Albert Boxley, was a fluent speaker as a child and used his knowledge, along with working with fluent speakers, to create new songs for the Tsimshian of Metlakatla, Alaska. David Robert was raised singing those songs, learning to make the sounds unique to Sm’algya̱x. Also, as a traditional carver and artist, he has worked with museums around the world all his life, studying the works of the old masters, assisting with repatriation, and demonstrating art and culture to museum visitors. Because of the state of emergency Sm’algya̱x is in, learners are forced also to be teachers. David Robert has taken on that responsibility since he was a teenager, teaching culture camps and writing songs sung by dance groups and at potlatches. He has taught Sm’algya̱x at the University of Alaska Southeast and in community courses with his father in Seattle and Metlakatla.

In 2015, David Robert, along with Gavin Hudson and Kandi McGIilton, co-founded The Haayk Foundation, and since have produced many hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of new Sm’algya̱x learning materials, many of which are available on their website to download for free. Through hosting community workshops and immersion events, they have brought fluent speakers from other Tsimshian communities to help in this crucial time and provide learning opportunities for their people. Partnering with organizations like the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, they produced a Bilingual Weaving Guide, preserving the unique style of basket weaving from Metlakatla and the Sm’algya̱x words that go along with it.

In 2016, David Robert participated in SHI’s Haa Shuká Mentor/ Apprentice program, learning from fluent Sm’algya̱x̱ speaker G̱oodm Nluułgm Xsgiik - Sarah Booth. David, and team member Kandi McGilton, spent five days a week with Sarah for three years learning from this kind, patient, and wise teacher. David Robert went from a high-novice level learner to very near low-advanced. This allowed David Robert to take on the responsibility of translating books and songs himself like SHI’s Baby Raven Reads project. However, all the work he or The Haayk Foundation does is checked by fluent speakers.

After Sarah’s passing in 2020, David Robert continued his learning with fluent speaker and hereditary chief Huhuuł - Theresa Lowther, working over Zoom five days a week from her home in Victoria, British Columbia.

David Robert sits on SHI’s Southeast Regional Language Committee and is a vocal advocate for language revitalization.