|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 20 in|
One day a friend called to say, “The Coho are in the Bay!” Salmon return to the river of their birth after spending four years in their villages far out in the ocean. The Salmon People have been doing this annually since the beginning of time. Every year their return generates incredible excitement. Fisherman eagerly get their gear together hoping for a prosperous season so they can take care of their families. Years ago I was a fisherman. My friend’s call filled my mind with images of what it is like when “The Coho are in the Bay.”
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.
Making his way through this world as an artist has given Nytom opportunities to convey the deep meaning of the teachings passed down by his elders. An important teaching of his grandparents was, “It is the hearts of others with values that help preserve a positive way of life.” In this design ‘Children Born of the Sun’ there appears the idea of the importance of teaching others the ways of our people. The Sun is representative of the Creator to many cultures throughout the world, and together with the Earth it transforms all living things. Nytom’s grandmother liked to say that “when you see a rainbow in the sky, it means someone’s prayers are being answered.” The faces represent the spirits of our ancestors and children not yet born. How fortunate we are to have the sense of responsibility to teach others the ways of our people. We are truly all Children Born of the Sun.
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.
Nytom has a brother that was raised by an Irish couple on the east coast of the U.S. with the last name Gearin. Early in his childhood he came to realize he was First Nations and would say to his adopted family, “One day I will live on a reserve”. He left the east coast and found his way to the northwest. After his schooling, he now works for the Federal Government as a fisheries biologist. This design represents his family, living life in a traditional way to find their path to the future, and remembering their past by honoring the present.
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.
During Tribal Journeys 2009, I met a young man who joined the Kyuquot Canoe Family. He was Principal of the School in our village and was interested in participating in the journey, to paddle with and learn about the people. We had many wonderful conversations, and he shared a teaching that has helped children to relax and pay attention to their lessons. Inviting an elder from the village to share their oral histories gave children a sense of pride and respect for their elders and helped them focus more diligently on their studies. Nytom discovered later that the man had lost his father to cancer and never had the opportunity to say goodbye. Kyuquot sun set was created to commemorate the passing of his father, and to illustrate that as long as remember the teaching of our elders, their spirit will never die.