Nexw Niw Chet (The Teachings)

The Teachings are located in the Saywell Atrium. Photo by Reese Muntean
The Teachings are located in the Saywell Atrium. Photo by Reese Muntean
The Teachings are located in the Saywell Atrium. Photo by Reese Muntean

Title/Date: Nexw Niw Chet/The Teachings, 2009
Artist: L’Hen Awtwx (Squamish Weaving House)
Culture/Language Group: Squamish
Media: Hand woven wool
Credit Line: Collection of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Simon Fraser University

Context:

Coast Salish weaving is one of the great Aboriginal arts of North America. For centuries the Salish people of the Pacific Northwest have spun mountain goat hair and other fibers to produce exquisite blankets, robes, and tunics with colourful designs and emotional symbolism.

Woven blankets serve a number of very important functions in Coast Salish society, and according to oral traditions, have been used for ceremonial purposes since the beginning of time. When worn, they represent an individual’s wealth and identify the wearer as being a civic or religious leader. Blankets are given away to members of the community or to people in other villages to show prosperity. They are also used as gifts for guests who attend memorials, initiations, naming ceremonies, or to pay ritual specialists for their services. And as seen here, they are also beautiful works of art that can be enjoyed on their own aesthetic merits.

Salish weaving declined in the early 20th century due to colonial policies that banned First Nations religious and cultural practices. In addition, colonizers brought with them mass-produced blankets, the most famous of which were the red, yellow, and green striped Hudson’s Bay Company blankets.

The ancient practice of weaving had nearly disappeared among the Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) until hereditary Chief Janice George and her husband Buddy Joseph sparked a revival over a decade ago. Thanks to their efforts, over a hundred weavers are working in their community and beyond. The sixteen blankets seen here were commissioned by SFU and created by Janice and Buddy’s students. The designs are based on oral and written histories of Tthulk thlowokayway waytun (Burnaby Mountain).

Blanket Titles:

Over the Door of Museum:

The Chief Four Seasons
Tsatsky First Salmon

Back Wall - left to right:

Medicine River Seasons Cedar Temlh Medicine
Medicine Berry Season LAndscapes Directions The People Medicine

Additional Information - Nexw Niw Chet (The Teachings)

Sources:

Gustafson, Paula.  Salish Weaving. 1980. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre. Print

Simon Fraser University Media Releases. “Ceremony marks aboriginal weaving’s rebirth”. March 25, 2009. Web.   http://www.sfu.ca/archive-university-communications/media_releases/media_releases_archives/media_03250901.html

Simon Fraser University Media Releases. “Weaving a cultural renaissance.” March 19, 2009. Web. http://www.sfu.ca/archive-sfunews/news/story_03190901.shtml

William A. White and Andrew Cienski.  “White Nobility Blankets are Gifts of the Creator… We Must Follow Our Customs”.  2006. Based on a paper researched and written for the Pauquachin First Nation Nobility Blanket Class. Web. http://midislandnews.com/early-nanaimo-history/history-coast-salish-nobility-blankets

Coast Salish Weaving:

Bierwert, Crisca. Weaving in Beauty, Weaving in Time in S'abadeb The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists. ed. Barbara Brotherton. 2008. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum.

Johnson, Elizabeth Lominska, and Kathryn Bernick. Hands of Our Ancestors: The Revival of Salish Weaving at Musqueam. Vancouver: U.B.C. Museum of Anthropology. Museum Note (Vancouver, B.C.); No. 16. 1986. Print

Wells, Oliver. Salish Weaving, Primitive and Modern: As Practiced by the Salish Indians of South West British Columbia. Rev. ed. 1969. Sardis, B.C: Author.

Chief Janice George and L’Hen Awtwx (Squamish Weaving House):

Janice George interview at Squamish Lil’wat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYkb14D-Y9M

Chief Joe Capilano Blanket - Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLnBZgdbSyc

Closer to Home Season 1- Chapter 1: Weaving Studio-Blessing Ceremony
https://vimeo.com/64410740