|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 15 in|
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.
After the federal government signed treaties with the First Nations of the US, the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave everyone English names and enrollment numbers to keep track of us. They never enough cared to realize that we had a powerful sense of family and relationship with one another, which came about through a highly developed naming system that provided a system of order and rank.
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.
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.
The three entities in this design portray the power emanating from a coastal drumming circle. When we are drumming, the circle is in unison. It is like the Thunderbird, enveloping us all as one. It is beautiful feeling that resonates through every fiber of our being, and a collective experience that is truly sacred.
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.