|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 15 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.