|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 15 in|
Nytom sometimes finds himself challenged with situations and not sure what direction he should turn or what action to take. There is a comfort, however, in knowing that his ancestors guide his actions and, like the wolves in this design, whisper to him and offer advice. All one has to do is listen.
Nytom often wonders what it would take to live in a perfect world: A place where people took only what they needed, left the rest for others and always got along. This image is what I imagined the world would be like if there was such a place.
‘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.
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.
The Makah have hunted whales on the open ocean since time and memorial. Whales have provided Makah people with food and valuable raw materials, and the practice continues to be a source of spiritual and ceremonial strength. In 1999, the Makah successfully hunted a grey whale, exemplifying the Makahs’ ability to control their own affairs and revitalize this rich culture as traditional coastal people.
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.
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.