Written into the Earth    

Written into the Earth is located on the east wall of the Saywell Atrium. Photo courtesy SFU Galleries
Written into the Earth is located on the east wall of the Saywell Atrium. Photo by Reese Muntean
Written into the Earth is located on the east wall of the Saywell Atrium.Photo by Reese Muntean

Title/Date: “Written into the Earth”, 1999
Artist: Susan Point
Culture/Language Group: Coast Salish
Media: Cast Aluminum and Red Cedar
Credit Line: SFU CollectionOn loan from the collection of George and Christiane Smyth, Salish Weave Collection 


Coast Salish art is deeply tied to a world in which people, land, and spiritual power are inseparable. This world is composed of humans, plants, animals, rocks, places, and spirits associated with living things and natural events. These spiritual beings can move from the visible world we inhabit to parallel invisible worlds, or to worlds under the sea, underground or in the sky                                              

The Coast Salish landscape is filled with reminders of spirit power such as rocks, trees and animals that were given their present form by powerful siblings known as Transformers. In this sense, the integral relationship between the Coast Salish people and their land is literally written into the earth.

Written in the Earth was also an historically important exhibit of archaeological artifacts at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), which opened in 1996. Named by Musqueam weaver Deborah Sparrow, who on hearing Pierre Trudeau say “I don’t see it written anywhere that the land is yours” thought to herself, “It is written in the earth. The evidence is everywhere that we have lived in the land. Anywhere that we open the earth, so are unveiled the messages from the past”.

This piece is an expression of the relationship between the Coast Salish and the land, and the historical events that have taken place here. The four panels represent world cultures. Each piece has a human face at its centre with a bird on each side representing a different celestial body. The hummingbird represents the earth; the thunderbird represents the stars; the owl represents the moon; and the phoenix represents the sun. 

Additional Information - Written into the Earth

This piece is the artist’s proof for a public art installation commissioned by First and Goal Inc., Seattle, WA. The public installation can be seen at the Century Link Field and Exhibition Centre.

The Salish Weave Collection is a private collection of contemporary Coast Salish art that weaves together the distinctive forms and designs of established and emerging artists. The collection has travelled to various museums and galleries throughout the world.



Thom, Brian. Sxwoxwiyám Xéyt te Xwélmexw (Central Coast Salish Transformation Stories): Connecting Humans and Non-humans through Kinship and Place. September 1997. University of Victoria. Web. http://www.web.uvic.ca/~bthom1/Media/pdfs/ethnography/sagen.htm

Jenness, Diamond. The Faith of a Coast Salish Indian. 1986. Victoria: BC Provincial Museum. Print.

Suttles, Wayne. The Economic Life of the Coast Salish of Haro and Rosario Straits. 1974. New York: Garland. Print.

Philips, Ruth. “APEC at the Museum of Anthropology: The Politics of Site and the Poetics of Sight Bite” in Cronin, J. Keri, and Kristy Robertson (eds.). Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture and Activism in Canada. 2011. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. pp. 171-193. Print.

First and Goal Incorporated. Stadium Art Program Guide: Seahawks Stadium And Exhibition Centre. Web. metaarte.net/s/Stadium-Art-Program-Brochure.pdf

Coast Salish Art:

Blanchard, R. and Nancy Davenport.. Contemporary Coast Salish Art. 2005. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Print.

Brotherton, Barbara (ed.). Sabadeb, the Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists. 2008. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Print.

The Burke Museum. “Coast Salish Art”. 2015. Web http://www.burkemuseum.org/coastsalishart

Lawrence, Toby lessLIE, and India Young. Record, (re)create: contemporary Coast Salish art from the Salish Weave Collection. 2012. Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Print

Susan Point:

Artist Website: http://susanpoint.com/

Wyatt, G. and Michael Kew. Susan Point: Coast Salish artist. 2000. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Print