|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 20 in|
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Looking closely at this design, you can see two faces sharing one mouth. This represents the concept of people agreeing on an idea. There are four other faces incorporated in the design, which add their own interpretation to the concept of the talking circle. New ideas keep our cultural moving. Change is the constant. We embrace the change as we move ahead in our society.