A journey to Haida Gwaii is always a good idea…especially when it’s summer, I’m with my partner Alex in his 77 Van Dura, and theres some cat-adventurers on board. A journey to Haida Gwaii is an especially good idea when it’s for the first show on Haida art curated by a Haida person. Nika Collison of Skidegate curated the exhibit, “Gina Suuda Tl’l Xasii” (“Came to Tell Something”), which runs until January 2015. It’s here where the recently completed Sky Blanket has been shown, along with a treasure of pieces both old and new. I am honored to have been a part of it, and that her dedicated work has kept me connected to my path home through weaving.
It’s been a long circle, returning to our ancestral homelands. My great nonnie (grandmother), Ruby Simeon, left the islands when she was just a young woman, having met and fallen in love with Geoff Wallace, a Kwakwakw’wakw chief from Cape Mudge. They relocated, married and had seven children. Six were daughters: my grandmother Minnie, and her sisters Marion, Verna, Lorna, Bepsey, and Ruby Mae Wallace. There was also a son, Reuben Wallace. Our family ties are strong to Haida Gwaii, as it is a matralineal society. That is, we trace who we are and our place in society through our mothers. I began going up there in 2008 or 2009, and worked under the guidance of two powerful women. Sherri Dick and her daughter Kerri have shared aspects of the spirituality and responsibility within cedar bark and Ravenstail weaving, for which I am indebted and grateful.
Kerri-Lynn Emily Dick
How did you get here? In western society, many family ties are still powerful bonds, yet many bonds are also fragmented and broken. Many North Americans came to settle on this continent from distant land, leaving behind a way of life and language. Very little emphasis is given to us as to the importance of where we come from. In turn, many European descent people from my generation view themselves as simply “white”, having no culture, no history, and nothing to leave of importance for the future. Sometimes I’ve heard it referred to “white-washing”. But this is so untrue! We all have histories, we all come from somewhere. I would heartedly encourage any person alive to pursue understanding their own history. The feeling of grounding and strength that comes from knowing where you came from is empowering. Even without a written history, the truth remains that our blood is handed to us in a seamless, unbroken line back through countless generations. We carry our personal histories in the physical sustenance of our own bodies.
What stands between realizing this is a way we’ve been taught: a certain way of seeing ourselves, of seeing our bodies, minds, and what it means to be alive. Opening into a new way of experiencing ourselves is a most distinct key to unlocking what our role is in relation to other aspects of life. Collectively we have been built upon relationships of all kinds: human, animal, inanimate– all of these are vital. These relationships are in my view, all in a state of dysfunction and disconnect. There has been something special in returning to these lands, with this weaving. Lands are like us: they remember themselves, they have residue of relationships left in their genetics. But like us they are also being sculpted and shaped to serve a need that civilization demands: that we use the earth and each other, we subjugate each other, enslaving each other in a perpetually narrow, fragmented world view. In the whole of possibility, it is what we have now that we have agreed on as real. Sky Blanket is in essence an exploration of memory, of worldview, of disintegrating rational concepts of time into truth, and of the memory that process, material, and the land holds. It is an expression of what one mountain goat shared with me about existence. It is reaching out for a language our bodies remember, a language older than worlds.
Mild distinction is the answer through the forest trail, where the path of ancestors walks us back to who we are. Old trails like veins in the earth run strong, and reach back into time, like folding landscapes who undo the work of schooling. Which relation have we wept for in our sleep, where dreams drew silent images from above radiant blue and green landscapes. A simplicity breaks our minds, it caves the remnants of civilization into the older form of itself, which was our truth. The land is as it remembers us. The land reaches back into the oldest of relations: that of the fish to the net, of the root to the basket, of our hands and what stands between the two. It is a choice of the power we have been gifted with, to which we have decisions to make. A most elegant resonance beats with the rain on the big house. Like the waves as they make foam and it floats sideways in our hearts. Is the distant beat of the wind, knocking on the trees? Make a creek like a woman flow, a forest and a memory as it contains. All of the breaths are countless and yet known as one. A trifle of simplicity blows my skin apart, and away, and like fire makes ashes of the physical.