As a child, Houstie was removed from his family and community and placed in St Michael’s residential school in Alert Bay, BC. Residential schools were designed to 'remove culture' and promote assimilation and yet, ironically, it was there that he found his artistic traditions, while watching master carver Mungo Martin carve a large totem pole. He has said that making art is part of his residential school healing process. Houstie worked as a technician for Bill Reid at one time, and in 1992 he was one of the Northwest Coast artists who took part in the "Transforming Image" project and exhibition at MOA. During the project he recreated a number of Heiltsuk bentwood box paintings from the 19th century.