As an Nlaka’pamux cultural tattoo practitioner I have had the benefit and honor of helping in the revival efforts of many Indigenous nations across Canada as I travel and share the gifts I have been given. A simple question at my Earth Line Tattooing Action at the Gallery 101 exhibition opening of “Owning with the Gaze,” in October 2015 curated by Cheryl L’Hirondelle sparked my thinking, which has manifested into the first Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency. Rachelle Dickenson asked that pivotal question as she sat and chatted with me as she received her skin stitch Earth Line. It was a simple question in the context of the conversation around my work in reviving Indigenous tattooing in Canada, “What is next?” My reply came, “I need to figure out how to teach others how to do what I do.”
This was only the first time we visited Gordon at his shop the second time was with the gracious organizer extraordinaire of Indigenous Ink Terry Klavenes a Tongan tattoo artists who is working at bringing the motifs and designs from his Tongan heritage into his tattoo work.
During our second visit we happened to be there during the raising of Gordon’s new sign outside of his shop, which warranted an impromptu celebration that included some of New Zealand seafood. One of these “delicacies” is Kina, which are sea urchin eggs, I tried them once and that will be the only time I put these in my mouth. After trying a few of the things offered I thoroughly enjoyed my order of fish and chips.
In Ottawa Ontario, Canada from October 31st to November 28th at Gallery 101, an art exhibition curated by Cheryl L’Hirondelle entitled, “Owning With the Gaze” featured works by Millie Chen, Leah Decter, Stephen Foster, Ayumi Goto, Suzanne Morrissette, Lisa Myers and myself. At the opening of this exhibition on October 31st I performed my first “Earth line tattooing action” from 6-10pm. This blog post will outline where the idea for this performance emerged and share some of my thoughts, feelings, emotions and insights that have come to my consciousness since that date a little over a month ago.
The art of skin stitch tattooing is one my ancestors practiced for generations and it is coming back to life one stitch at a time, here is a short video documenting me sewing a tattoo on a friend of mine Cody. Enjoy and stay tuned for more videos and more posts.
Check out Lars Krutak’s TED Talk, he does an amazing job outlining the importance of Indigenous tattoo knowledge and the need to document your nations tattooing practices. I am honoured to have been mentioned during this presentation and am thankful for the work that he has done and continues to do.
One of the greatest gifts I have been given by the creator is the gift of tattooing, and with that gift I also have a responsibility to share it. This is a video documenting the revival of Nlaka’pamux skin stitch tattooing. The top design incorporates an earth line and trees, and the lower design is a river and its banks. The earth line is a motif that was commonly found on our upper garments. For me the earth line is a constant reminder of our relationship to, and the dependence on, the earth and all that is. Being reminded, in that moment our responsibility to this world bubbles to the surface of our consciousness. The earthline is there to bring us all back to our Indigeneity (living in a sustainable way). Check it out!
After much weeping and gnashing of teeth trying to get paperwork filled out and right, so as to have my trip next week approved I became a little obsessed with my archival research and almost didn’t stop staring into the computer monitor. I have updated the website and found many new examples of Inuit and Algonquian tattooing. I have not found any Nlaka’pamux tattoo examples but am enjoying bringing these resources forward to help other Indigenous peoples reclaim their traditional tattoos.
As I begin this new leg of my journey I figured the best place to start is by reflection, a brief look at my journey into my studies at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan in Indigenous studies. Why this project? Why this subject? What is my connection to it, and why is it important?