Snaw-Naw-As First Nation
I believe that certain people harness different cultural abilities; for me, it is the Visual Arts. I have recently found an interest in the Coast Salish designs and stories that come with the art. Which inspired ‘Masked Identity’ and its Coast Salish designed element. While creating the sketches of the mask I took great influence from my own features, and asked myself “What would my face look like if it was a mask?”. In the end, when I was finishing off the painting, I realised that the mask ultimately represented my identity, that has become lost within intergenerational trauma.
The theft of identity has swept through Indigenous communities for the last couple of centuries. Language, ceremonies and culture deteriorated before our eyes. I painted ‘Masked Identity’ to interpret my real face as a cultured Indigenous woman. I believe that the painting is an alternate face that I can wear to feel comfortable in my own skin, and harness the cultural side of myself. Hopefully, the mask can be a gateway to a new beginning for the retrieval of my cultural identity.
For decades, cultural identity has plummeted within my small community of the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation. When the potlatch was banned, our hereditary chief at the time burned the regalia, and over the years our culture disappeared. Although many families on the reserve gather for potlatches and other ceremonial events. I don’t find myself ever exposed to such accommodations. I have this spirit within me screaming for the medicine that is culture — the pounding of drums, the bellowing of singing and the movement of dancing. However, I have been deprived from such activities, and the need for it begins to grow stronger each year.
I don’t blame my community, nor do I blame my family for the loss of culture. I blame the government that has taken away our identity. They took away our potlatches, our children, our voices and our art. The Canadian Government likes to now use the regalia they have taken and use them in museums. I like to believe my mask was locked away in a storage compartment, and just now in my discovery of identity I have taken back the mask.