Rachel Topham Photography

Phyllis Atkins q̓wɑti̓cɑ̓ 

Digital print on vinyl  
SRYE Building

Our Roots Run Deep depicts the artists’ connection to the land and water from the territories of Kwantlen to Shackan. The work depicts the sacredness of the salmon returning to its spawning grounds to create new life. Within the composition, the grizzly bear represents Phyllis Atkin’s mother’s family line, and the wolf represents Kwantlen First Nation, as the artists’ family descended from the wolf. The eagles, which fly higher and closer to the sun than any other bird, represent the artists’ ancestors carrying prayers to the good Creator, the creator of all beautiful things.

“Our roots run deep from the Thompson to the Fraser rivers,” asserts the artist. “Both my son Noah and I have ancestral names that come from Nłeʔkepmxcim territory in the Interior Salish region, and we live in Kwantlen First Nation, in the Coast Salish region, where my late Father Joe Gabriel was the Hereditary Grand Chief. My son’s ancestral name, Ncwaʕ, is that of his great great grandfather, who was a highly respected chief of Shackan, where my mother, Maureen Gabriel, is from. I am q̓ʷɑt̓ic̓ɑ and I was given this name by my maternal grandfather, hereditary Chief Anthony Joe of Shackan. This was the name of his favourite aunt who took him in and raised him with her husband Nəq̓ɑɬc̓i. As an Indigenous woman and mother, I am very proud and honoured to mentor and collaborate on this legacy project with my oldest son, Noah Atkins.”

Phyllis Atkins q̓wɑti̓cɑ̓ is a member of qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen) First Nation, and her traditional name means “I wear the clouds like a blanket.” She is the founder, co-owner, and lead artist of K'wy'i'y'e Spring Salmon Studio. She is also the Manager and Board Director at Stalew Arts & Culture Society. Atkins was taught how to paint by Barbara Boldt at the Barbara Boldt Original Art Studio and studied with her for many years until she opened her own studio in 2012. In 2001, she learned the art of hand-engraving jewelry from the late Master carver Derek Wilson from Haisla, BC. Atkins often practices art in collaboration with her family. She created Our Roots Run Deep together with her son Noah Atkins.