"For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it." - Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
"Strength" by Louie Gong
"Tongues speak. Teeth can bite."
On our trip to Canada back in March, we stopped by 8th Generation at Pike Place Market. The shop was full of amazing art pieces created by #InspiredNatives, but I was immediately drawn to this pair of earrings designed by Louie Gong, the owner. The woman working at the shop told me that they were titled "Strength" and that Louie had designed them as a tribute to the women in his tribe because they are fierce protectors of culture and their posterity. The earrings are designed to look like a wolf's mouth just like a mother wolf would be a fierce protector of her cubs.
I really liked the explanation and could identify with it because I was always told growing up that the women of my Maori tribe, Ngati Porou, were figures of strength and participated in leadership roles and in the protecting and preservation of culture.
According to the description from his website:
This original "Strength" earring design by Louie Gong (Nooksack) developed organically from his signature art style, which often includes symbols of empowerment such as oversized teeth, tongues, and claws. Here, the hand-painted wood compliments northwest Native art traditions ,while ensuring that every single earring has a unique wood grain and paint job that can never be duplicated. This compliments the bold contemporary finish of the body and tongue, which is made of acrylic. The metal jump ring and hook have a gun metal finish.
Louie Gong (Nooksack), founder of Eighth Generation, is a self-taught artist who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community in northwest Washington...Louie’s unique style merges traditional Coast Salish art with influences from his mixed heritage and urban environment to create work that resonates widely across communities and cultures.
Peter Wayne Gong
On our trip to Canada we drove from Vancouver to Kelowna and had to pass through a city named Mission, BC, which happened to be the home of an amazing Native American artist named Peter Wayne Gong. Greg had been following Peter on Instagram for several months and decided to reach out to him. While we were there we found out that Peter had just gotten out of the hospital after having heart bypass surgery and yet he still told us to come on by his shop.
Peter is a Coast Salish artist and member of the Squamish Nation and carves and paints various Pacific Northwest Native American pieces like bentwood boxes, rattles, masks, paddles, and more. He and his wife, Darlo, were amazing hosts and spent their time showing us Peter's studio, art pieces, and sharing stories from his culture. It was am amazing experience meeting such an inspiring artist and a generous person.
Follow Peter Wayne Gong on:
Driving between Seattle and Vancouver on I-5, we noticed these stunning Orca statues in front of the Tulalip Casino & Resort and decided we needed to pull over to get a closer look. We figured the casino might have some art exhibits to look at and needed a break from the road anyways. Inside, the casino was extremely beautiful, but we must have looked very out of place carrying around a 2-year old amongst the slot machines because this nice lady came up to us and asked if we needed any help. We responded that we were from California and just stopped because the resort looked beautiful. She directed us to the hotel portion and gave us some recommendations. We walked over to the main entrance of the hotel and the totem poles were stunning!
As my husband was taking pictures of the totem poles with Ronan and I in front of them this same nice lady came running up to us and said, "Okay you need a family picture now!" After the picture she asked us if we had any interest in visiting the tribe's museum. We were ecstatic! She told us to wait right there while she got us complementary passes to the Hibulb Cultural Center.
Hibulb Cultural Center
We had the entire museum to ourselves and what we thought would be a 30 minute walk-through turned into 2 hours of interactive family fun and personal enrichment.
One of the best parts of our time in the museum was being able to talk with Cary Williams, the Museum Assistant. As he shared with us stories from his grandfather and people, our authentic cultural exchange was uplifting and inspiring. Greg and I will forever be grateful for the time he shared with us even past the museum closing. As we shared our experience with Cary about how we happened upon the museum he told us that it had "called to us" and we truly felt a spirit of truth in that statement. As both of us are descendants of whale people, his ancestors the Killer Whales and mine Paikea, I can only feel like we were drawn there for a reason.
The museum gift shop was full of incredible art from indigenous artists and companies and even local tribal members. It is so important to learn about indigenous people and support local tribal artists whenever possible.
Cary explained to us that we are living in a time where the song of our ancestors is calling to us and as indigenous people we are uniting in our similarities to find the lost canoe full of all of the good things of the earth.
Hibulb Cultural Center was definitely a highlight of our trip! I would recommend the Museum to everyone and can't wait to continue to learn about the Tulalip Tribe and return to visit them again.