cultural differences

Regarded as some as the signal to end of days the 'blood moon' has been a hot topic in the recent news. I wanted to take this incident as an opportunity to discuss cultural differences. For one, the color red. In the larger classic imagery of the mark of death notably, blood. Red has been seen as a marker of negative connotations. However, in views of the Northwest Coast Native mindset, red signifies healing, honor and celebration.

Another concept to capture the significance of the red moon is that it will appear four times within this years cycle. Four is a significant number to the Coast Salish people signifying the pillars of the longhouses in which many of our ceremonies take place from time in memoriam to the present day.

Lastly, the moon for many years has been focus of many fantasies of film. The views of our Salish mythology tell us that the moon is half human and half star born of a human mother and a star father. It also tells of a man who changed the world as far as Coast Salish mythology goes and that when it came time for him to return to the sky he took Frog Woman as his wife and made an agreement with the wolf chief to watch over the people and report our activities in between his absence. This is but scratching the surface for many other ideas but it goes to show there is much to explore about Native 'mythology'.


Next steps

wolf brothers 1998 by Qwalsius - Shaun Peterson

Edition of 95
Dimensions 20"h x 17"w
$250.00 USD


Of the first serigraphs produced by the artist. Wolf Brothers (1998) is being released back into the market place. This original limited edition serigraph came to be from working inpiration of a dream in which three wolves emerged from a central figure that represented their mother. In Coast Salish culture many sculptures have been inspired from spindle whorl objects. Wolf is significant in the culture as it represents a sense of order and honor.


Moving on

So many look at the idea of hand made as fine art, the notion of craft but in reality aside from 90% of the Northwest Coast native art world that world of serigraphy is a myth and one I am leaving behind. I once believed that processing my own films and learning about rubylith would someday pay off as a Native artist. That was the 90's and I was a fool. Optimistic thinking everyone was like Rober Davidson, Don Yeomans or Susan Point. It's a medium that has become an equivalent of the newspaprer for news. 

Vector is the new expression and my inspirations came from my colleague Andy Everson. I was intrigued by the possibility that I could create something digtal that would have cost me 8 times in screens and ink alone. I learned that Andy was the Susan Point of digital graphics brunting people who felt the art was insignificant.

Native art is supported by the people and what they decide and support rises to the surface. So when galleries shunned the digital age it was tribal communites who made the work a valid economy just as the culture always had.

I learned a great deal from serigraphy and am greatful. Unlike painting and carving tho I don't see my place with it in our tribal context. So today I am announcing that I will produce my last serigraph in partnership with Paul Nicholson of the Legcacy gallery which will be documented with ambitions to be exhibited at Seattle Art Museum.



yes, the headdress again

Chief Joseph: RISE campaign

Since this headdress thing keeps gaining more attention as of late with the Governor of Oklahoma's daughter sporting not only a headdress but a caption that read 'Appropriate Culturation'. There's hope that this trend goes mainstream enough to die but before it does I hope to make some difference in why the headdress appropriation is bothersome to begin with.

I have so many things to say but I will limit it to a few key points today. Most of my life growing up as a Native American in a small town in Western Washington on my reservation I attended a public school where I was one of maybe five Natives. There were experiences that stood out to me from memory including a group of boys telling me what a pow wow was. It started as being asked what I did that weekend and I answered "I went to a pow-wow with my grandpa" to the group of white boys who called me a liar, one standing up to say 'my dad knows Indians and pow-wows aren't for kids, they are for chiefs and sacred meetings!" standing as though he were some great leader. This was the beginning of a long journey.

I shared in a previous post about my negative experience with my literature teacher here. In that same class though I recall when we watched "Lord of the Flies" and I sat between two friends, one half Korean and African American the other Korean. The girl in front of me was a tall blonde girl we'd all grown up with and considered a friend and even rode the same bus as me up to that point. The part where the children danced around the fire she said in shock "oh my God, they're like wild Indians!" there was no hiding the disgust she had in her tone. My friends looked at me from either side as if turning their heads in slow motion to gauge my reaction. I frowned about put my head down. After a minute or so, she must have remembered I was Indian and I sat behind her so she started apologizing. While she did I tuned out and the thought crossed my mind 

this movie isn't about Native Americans, it's about chaos. When "The Color Purple" or "Roots" is shown people are ashamed of the slave owners not disgusted by the slaves right? I'm not saying we are slaves but in all these movies there is no semblance of the humanity. We are the enemy, uncivilized and the wild but that's NOT how we are.

I remember coming back to her apology and simply saying 'it's ok, you're not going to understand this feeling I have in a matter of 10 minutes of talk and honestly I don't think you can do anything about it. You are afraid of wild Indians like all the movies we've grown up with and there's nothing we can do to change that'.

But this steamroller of a monster that made us out to be the demons has enormous momentum. It has made me feel unease my whole life and I wonder if it's why our children struggle in school being taught history from the perspective of the hero which makes us the villain. I really feel frustration in that perception of chaos and the random dancing around the fire, free spirit portrayal. As someone who's attended ceremonies of my tribe I've never known anything to be done without order, without reason. In fact I don't know of any tribes to 'be wild' or 'chaotic'. In order to survive there must be order. The thing that fascinates me is that the only contact people had early on with Native people on a large scale was to acquire land and resources which plainly we understand the slant of that tale today.

When the governor of Oklahoma's daughter, Christina Fallin put her headdress on and captioned her pic on Facebook for her band "Pink Pony" self described as Electronic-Punk I'd have had more respect for her if she really spoke up in the sense of what punk is. Which leads me to another frustration. Indians as counter culture or anti-establishment. I'm beginning to believe the Lana Del Ray video "Ride" shed light on what's kind of been happening for a long time now. Self proclaimed 'white trash' individuals along with bikers have glommed onto Native culture as though we were rebels looking for trouble. Again, highly problematic and very far removed from accurate. There was order, there were constructs for doing things but again, images of people 'playing Indian' dancing around a fire for no reason.

So as for Christina Fallin, needless to say I'm disappointed. If you were really punk you'd have stood your ground as counter culture or explained to the Native people your take on wearing the headdress that differentiated yourself from the hoards of hipsters in headdress, but no, you are like all the rest. Johnny Rotten would be ashamed you call yourself punk. I think it's time to tag people like yourself as you are, a #Poser and a #Tourist.

I may not come directly from a tribe that has the headdress in it's tradition but I respect those who do. I've said before I can speak to my ties to Chief Sealth, Whitebird and Chief Joseph and even so I'd never 'honor' them by pretending I'm something I am not. If you can't do that you are a fraud and a wannabe and you can speak to that when this trend falls off and you finally grow up.



Vashon on the horizon

I know my radical postings have been like rants to some lately but to prove they are not just complaints. Today I'm starting the project for Vashon Island that will include Native speakers from my tribe to educate islanders there about our territory reach along with the treaty rights we retain. Years ago the army forcefully removed our people from there and the longhouses were destroyed. It isn't talked about in text and therefore people think we were not part of that land. Today I am working on a design of a Devilfish largely influenced by our Puyallup elder Ramona Bennett. She's always asked me to depict the devilfish because of the eight arms reaching out were to note us as a people who touch many nations. This concept to use that image is to ask our people to come back to this place where they are no longer strangers in their own home.

I'll be following up with more postings as the project develops in the meantime I am getting into the carving phase of this soon. Thanks for visiting.