|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 14.5 in|
The central figure in this design is a female entity, representing the matriarchal nature of our society. The women of coastal tribes were entrusted to hold, protect and preserve the names, songs and dances of their people. This high honor was bestowed upon women because they were entrusted with giving birth and being the primary caretakers of the children. Light heartedly, it is sometimes said, ‘you often see a Native man walking in front of a Native woman, and that is so the woman can tell the man which way to go.’ From a more serious perspective, it is known that men once lived severe lifestyles as hunters and warriors. It was important to recognize that if anything dreaded happened to the men, women would bear the heavy responsibility of keeping traditional cultures alive and flourishing.
As a young girl, Nytom’s mother knew a man called “Young Doctor” in the village of Neah Bay. He was an artist, carver, song maker and fisherman. His ability to make songs hadn’t come easy. Young Doctor walked bent over because of an accident in the woods. While he was caught under a tree, many songs came to him. Soon after he recovered from his accident, he brought out those songs for the people of Neah Bay. One song Nytom likes singing the most talks about frogs coming out of the ground in the spring. The people of Neah Bay sing this song at every community gathering. Like the frogs’ singing, it brings us together with a spirit of unity.
Certain First Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast were great whalers. This design depicts the rivalry between ten whaling brothers. The oldest brother often made his prayers while on a sandbar, waiting for the incoming tide to cover his body. One day, while praying in this manner, his nine younger brothers attacked and killed him. During the fight, the oldest brother vowed that on an incoming tide his blood would find its way to their village. When his prediction came to pass, the people of the village avenged his murder by killing the remaining nine brothers. Many years later, the tragic history of this family was told by the elders at a village community gathering. The great-great-grandson of the brother who had been killed was asked by the elders to return home and take his rightful place among the Chiefs.
First Nations of the NW Coast believe that killer whales and wolves are their brothers. Like wolves on land, killer whales hunt in packs and all share in the food, starting with the alpha male and female. Families composed songs and made regalia to depict the transformation of wolves into killer whales. In a marriage ceremony between two high-ranking clans from coastal tribes, singers of the groom’s family escort the bride from one side of the house to the family of the groom on the opposite side by surrounding her with dancers. The men mount a wooden fin on their backs to represent the whale, and wear a wolf’s skin on their shoulders to hide their identity. The dancers crawl alongside her like wolves and then transform, breaching like killer whales with the changing beat of the drum.
Nytom was commissioned to create a glass panel design for the entryway of the home of two friends who came together at a later time in life. The new moon is symbolic of a fresh start and a new love. A limited edition print was also created, and was handed out at a dinner to welcome family and friends to their home.
Wolves mate for life, and Nytom often uses the wolf to inspire his imagination in creating new designs. In the cultures of coastal peoples the wolf means a great deal, and is used in ceremonies to remind us to first take care of our elders and young, before ourselves. The design shows two wolves paired off, looking at each other and another wolf pair yet to be born.