|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 15 in|
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.
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 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.
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.
People on the coast spent the spring, summer and fall gathering sustenance for the long harsh winters. The winter was for singing and dancing. The people gathered in their longhouses and related to one another by remembering and honoring their ancestors and sharing a genealogical relationship with the people of other houses. By naming the house posts, the people remembered their ancestors who were direct descendants of the house that had passed on before.The wolves in the design represent the Warrior Society among some of the coastal First Nations.
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.