Week Two of the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency
The second week of the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency was spent learning about the relationship between Indigenous tattoo revival and land. At the most basic level our identity in North America is steeped in legislation that is designed to erase our identity and with it our rights to the very land that the nation states of Canada and the United States are inhabiting. The second is that our knowledge systems, language and visual language all come from and are informed by the land, so as I have journeyed I have always found it essential to spend time out on my territory to ground me in my place. Finally our tattoos are connected too the visual vocabulary painted and etched into the rocks of our vast territories. This is the reason I felt it necessary to take the artists involved in the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency out onto my territory.
We took a 3 day backpacking trip hiking over 30 kilometers into the SteinValley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park.
Week One of the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency Part 2
After a very intense and emotional first day we got down to business with an equally intense second day. During the day we looked over and did training into the most important part of the tattooing process, for me it is even more essential to the effectiveness of the revival of Indigenous tattooing and it includes knowledge and training around blood borne pathogens, cross contamination and the health aspects of tattooing.
The students worked through blood borne pathogens training and gained certification and did an intensive workshop related to the distinctive concerns associated with being a cultural tattoo practitioner and the work of ensuring everyone involved in the tattooing process is protected from any potential harm associated with the application of a tattoo.
Week One of the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency Part 1
The first two weeks of the Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency have been absolutely mind blowing as I have been able to hear the stories of the artists in attendance Dean Hunt, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Amy Malbeuf and Jordan Bennett. These two blog posts will contain a run down of the activities and some of the lessons learned and shared over the first week and another to follow outlining the second week.
The Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency is happening as part of and running concurrently with the The Summer Indigenous Art Intensive Program which is coordinated by the Creative Studies Department at the the University of British Columbia Okanagan. It is an amazing program and this year is hosting “a core group of senior artists: Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, David Garneau, and Adrian Stimson. It will also include upward of 20 visiting studio artists in residence.”
I have had the most amazing two weeks working with and alongside the amazing artists Jordan Bennett, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Amy Malbeuf and Dean Hunt as we share our collective knowledge. This project is an outgrowth of my efforts to share my knowledge about traditional tattooing methods, the health aspects around tattooing and the power of tattoo revival.
There is a rock shelter that contains pictographs in the Stein River Valley that stands as a metaphor for my journey into understanding who I am.
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.
This tattoo festival brought together some of the most outstanding indigenous tattoo artists from around the world. The festival reunited old ancestral ties between the pacific rim cultures as well as interior tribes. The festival was a rare and fantastic platform for indigenous tattoo revivals to be recognized and encouraged out of the history books they previously had been kept in. The unification of like spirited tattooers from around the world lifted our morale and raised the standard of what tattoo festivals should look like.
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!