Today as the trump administration and its henchmen are about to overrun the water protectors at Standing Rock, I am moved to repost this post from July. My thoughts are with the Standing Rock protesters today. They've defended land and water bravely. Today at 2pm they will be overrun. Last night many of their tents and structures were burned in defiance. We must continue to resist. Thank you🙏🏽 to all those who protect the water and thus our nation. #NoDAPL
I often think about the rivers, lakes, towns and cities we have named after the original Americans. The absence of most of their culture in our increasingly mini-malled landscape points to the brutal erasure of Indian tribes across the United States. The dominant culture in America seems to continually romanticize, while at the same time ostracize, the rich history of Native Americans.
30"x24" oil on linen 2014
Two years ago on a technicolor blue day, I stood on the deck of the Wenatchee ferry cutting through the choppy sea from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The vessel was named for the Wenatchi people who originally lived in the shadow of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers in Eastern Washington State. We are riding on a ship of memory.
In the Yakama language, wenatchi means "river flowing from canyon." The Wenatchee River was home to a vibrant salmon run prior to the damming of the Columbia River which impeded the salmon's journey. Like the fish, the Wenatchi tribe was also blocked from its ancestral waterways as the US government rounded up the Native Americans in Washington State and collected them in reservations far from their native lands.
I often think about the rivers, lakes, towns and cities we have named after the original Americans. The absence of most of their culture in our increasingly mini-malled landscape points to the brutal erasure of Indian tribes across the United States. The dominant culture in America seems to continually romanticize, while at the same time ostracize, the rich history of Native Americans. The writer Sherman Alexie will have none of that, thank you. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington before graduating from Washington State University. Alexie is a major player in contemporary writing. His well-received novels, Reservation Blues and Indian Killer helped pave the way for his foray into film with Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing. Alexie writes with courage about his experiences as an Indian in a white culture. Alexie also writes, as Andrea Vogt in Washington State Magazine reported, with "brutal honesty-some might even say disdain-about ignorance, alcoholism, and other problems on the rez."
|The Business of Fancydancing leads Gene Tagaban (Aristotle Joseph), Michelle St. John (Agnes Roth), and Evan Adams (Seymour Polatkin), with writer/director Sherman Alexie.photo by Lance Muresan|
Courtesy Washington State Magazine
Canoe Journey 2016, Paddle to Nisqually, continues the inter-tribal celebration and annual gathering of Northwest indigenous nations. The website for Paddle to Nisqually goes into great detail about the history and significance of the event:
"Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.When Europeans began exploring the region, the tribes were used to meeting and welcoming strangers who arrived by boat. Sadly, the Europeans did not understand the hospitality culture of the coastal tribes as the tribes were displaced over the next two centuries. The canoe culture, as practiced by the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, had all but disappeared until the Canoe Journey events began to grow in the 90’s. Techniques of canoe making and use had largely vanished and fewer and fewer tribal people knew how to pull a traditional canoe. Now...a new tradition is well into the making and a cultural resurgence is underway."
The Salish Sea is a 6,500 square mile ecosystem consisting of the Puget Sound Basin (US) and the Georgia Basin (Canada).
The Nisqually Tribe finds hope in the annual canoe journey and its focus on community building:
"The Nisqually River Council’s Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (NWSP) recognizes that community wellness is a key component of creating a sustainable watershed. We embrace the people who live in the Nisqually watershed, their sense of identity and responsibility that has existed for generations. Strong communities require, among other things, access to the arts and high community health indicators. Paddle to Nisqually represents a unique opportunity to highlight the many efforts the Nisqually Tribe makes to promote community wellness, including a culture free of drugs and alcohol, access to traditional and healthy foods, and close ties to Nisqually heritage."Looking back now on that day on the ferry, I see things through the veil of my painting and the complicated history of the region. There is an accumulation of memories gathered in this Salish Sea as the Wenatchee ferry carries its passengers towards their destination. How many canoes over the centuries have traversed this same path?
In my painting Salish Sea, who is the rider on the bow of this ship of memory?
Gregg Chadwick's Salish Sea was on exhibit at Saatchi Art through September 29, 2016 in the group exhibition Cross Currents.