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.
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
Source: Kwakiutl Band Council website
We have been called the Kwakiutl ever since 1849, when the white people came to stay in our territories. It was a term then applied to all the Kwakwaka'wakw—that is, all of the people who speak the language Kwakwala. Today, the name Kwakiutl only refers to those from our village of Fort Rupert. Other Kwakwaka'wakw have their own names and villages. For example, the Gwawa'enuxw live at Hopetown. Collectively, we call ourselves the Kwakwaka'wakw—that is, all of the people who speak the language Kwakwala.
Our culture is kept alive through all those who learn something of the old ways: our language, our songs and myths, our dances. It finds expression in the delicate art of weaving, or in the power and thrill of canoeing on the open water. It is refreshed every time we share food resources and every time we celebrate and potlatch. It is evident in the Elders who are in our presence. And it is most visible in the many carvers, printmakers and jewellers who, schooled in the Kwakiutl tradition, continue to make art for a modern culture.
Source: Snuneymuxw First Nation website
Coast Salish culture is dynamic and diverse. The Coast Salish world is bound together by certain shared values and relations, and a worldview that recognizes the interconnectedness and spirit within all things. Certain common expressions of Coast Salish culture have become particularly renowned all across the globe – such as our art of weaving, and the use of the spindle whorl. Similarly, Coast Salish culture is expressed through the importance of, amongst other things, our fisheries.
Our relationships throughout the Coast Salish world are governed by our own laws and protocols, which reflect values of recognition, respect, and honour. Through those laws and protocols, Snuneymuxw self-determination and Territorial sovereignty is respected throughout the Coast Salish world. Beyond the Coast Salish world, we also have always had deep and enduring connections with neighbouring Nations, including the Nuuchahnulth in the mid and western part of Vancouver Island.
Source: Nuxalk Nation website
We are the Nuxalk Nation, located in and around what is known to some as Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada. We have been occupying and exercising our rights on the lands, water and resources of our ancestral territory since time immemorial. The Nuxalk Nation is a mixture of many villages that were distributed throughout kulhulmcilh (our land), including the four largest villages: Talyu in Ats’aaxlh (South Bentick); Suts’lhm (Kimsquit) to the north -this includes Satskw’ (Kimsquit River) and Nutl’l (Dean River); Kwalhna to the west; and Q’umk’uts‘ to the east.
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.