|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 14.5 in|
This is a special design Nytom has often revisited. It represents him and his partner living in the Circle of Life. After Nytom moved to Sequim, they had a Christmas holiday party for their friends, to enjoy each other’s company while sharing in the holiday spirit. They presented each guest with a copy of this design to show their appreciation for honoring the invitation.
The Makah have been great whale hunters, and highly skilled at traveling a dangerous ocean in large dugout canoes. This design honors traditional oral history about the Thunderbird hunting the Whale. The Makah Nation is the only tribe in the continental United States for whom whaling is an original treaty right.
There are many events in nature that represent the cycle of life. Among many coastal tribes, the cycle of life is heralded by the spawning of the salmon each year. Young salmon migrate to their village far out in the ocean, and then after several years at sea endure an arduous journey fraught with dangers to return to their birth waters. The Salmon would always return because the tribes honored the Salmon People in their First Salmon Ceremonies. In doing so, they also teach the people to continue to overcome all odds–to survive and keep their traditional cultures alive.
People on the coast spent the spring, summer and fall gathering sustenance for the long harsh winters. The winter was for singing and dancing. The people gathered in their longhouses and related to one another by remembering and honoring their ancestors and sharing a genealogical relationship with the people of other houses. By naming the house posts, the people remembered their ancestors who were direct descendants of the house that had passed on before.The wolves in the design represent the Warrior Society among some of the coastal First Nations.
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.
Nine generations ago, First Peoples from Vancouver Island came by canoe to the village of Deeah (now known as Neah Bay) in search of a wife for their Chief. They waited just off the beach, hoping to be invited ashore. After singing in their canoes for a few days, a man threw his harpoon to the beach. Unimpressed, the Makah threw the harpoon back with a herring tied to the end of the shaft. A year later, the people from Vancouver returned to Neah Bay with two whales as gifts. The Makah people gave three women in marriage to the Chief. This was the beginning of blood relations between Nytom’s family and the people of Clayoquot Sound.