|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.