A Place of Many Nations

The Pacific Northwest is home to dozens of distinct Nations each with a unique culture, dialect and traditional art form. Ahtsik Gallery primarily presents the work of Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakiutl, Coast Salish and Nuxalk artists. 

Nuu-chah-nulth Nation

Source: Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council website

There are fourteen Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations with approximately 10,000 members. Traditional territory extends along the west coast of Vancouver Island from the Brooks Peninsula area in the north to the Port Renfrew area in the south, and inland along the mountains to roughly the center of the island. The territory includes the Alberni Inlet and Port Alberni where Gordon Dick creates art in the Tseshaht/Nuu-chah-nulth style.

The 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations are divided into three regions:

  • Southern Region: Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, Hupacasath, Tse-shaht, and Uchucklesaht
  • Central Region: Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, and Yuu-cluth-aht
  • Northern Region: Ehattesaht, Kyuquot/Cheklesaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, and Nuchatlaht

NTC map


Art by Culture

Each Nation's traditional art form has a unique visual 'signature', a set of cues that separates one style of west coast art from another. These cues identify the art and artist as coming from a particular place. Some cues are easier to see than others but the cues evolve over time and there aren't necessarily strict "rules" for how they are applied.

An artist may work in a number of styles, be experimenting with a particular style, or be drawing inspiration from non-traditional sources like pop culture. Over time some artists often develop their own a unique visual signature that sets their work apart from other artists.

The visual cues below represent a limited number of general indicators only. They scratch the surface of the visual signature of each Nation's art form. 

Nuu-chah-nulth Style

  • Presence of soft, flowing lines
  • A balance between hard geometric lines and soft flowing lines
  • Bold, broad shapes
  • Forms based on shapes found in nature, ex. feathers
  • Asymmetrical elements

King Tide



Kwakiutl Style

  • Strong presence of white paint
  • More liberal application of paint
  • Dramatic, angular lines
  • More square shaped U-forms, with narrower ends on the 'U'




Coast Salish Style

  • Sparing application of paint
  • Stronger presence of repeated circles and crescents
  • Spindle whorl imagery: Designs encased in a circle, with a small central inner circle


Bentwood Box

Qui Kwathia