|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 20 in|
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘Thunderbirds’ is a drum design that came forth years ago. Nytom has revisited it often with the intent of creating a limited-edition print. At a potlatch in the late 1980s, Mowachaht leader Jerry Jack asked to have a design painted on his drum. It was natural to conceive a design representative of his love for his three children and their love and respect for him. The children felt much pride in their father and his efforts to keep the culture alive, and they were always ready to sing and dance at their father’s request. Even though years have passed and his children are now adults, they are just as dedicated as their father to keeping the culture alive.