Welcome Family and Friends to Our Bighouse by Nella Nelson
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About the Book:
Along the Pacific Northwest Coast, from Alaska through British Columbia
to Washington, there are several related, yet diverse, aboriginal
cultures (First Nations). Prior to contact with Europeans, these peoples
had developed complex social systems, wide trade routes, economic
prosperity, and one of the most complex art forms in the world. The
Potlatch (traditional First Nations business) and the Winter Ceremonies
are the vehicles for cultural connections all along the Coast.
Our story-teller, Gana, explains, “My family has been planning this
p`asa (Potlatch) for years and saving to buy gifts for our guests. In
some ways, the p`asa is a lot like a party but instead of people
bringing us gifts, we give gifts to everyone who comes. There are songs,
dances, plays, and stories. But also, there are marriages, funerals,
naming ceremonies, birth announcements, re-telling of our histories,
reminders of our culture, wearing the outfits that our ancestors wore,
showing and giving away blankets, large pieces of copper, tools, canoes,
jewellery, masks, food, toys and other gifts. The family asks everyone
who comes to remember everything they saw. That’s what the gifts are
for. They are a kind of payment to remember. This custom comes from a
time when my people didn’t write things down to remember them. People
had very good memories. They told important facts and stories to their
kids and their kid’s kids. Nowadays, I can read facts and stories in
books, see them on DVD and movies, as well as hearing about them from my
About the author:
Nella Cook Nelson, originally from the N’amgis Nation, was born and
raised in Alert Bay, B.C. Her father George Cook is from the Tsakis
N’amgis and K’ómoks Nations and her mother, Ruth Sewid-Mundy, descends
from the Da’naxda’xw and the Mamallikula Nations. After marrying Alex
Nelson in 1972, Nella became part of the Dzawataineuk Nation of Kingcome
Inlet. She has a daughter Tasha, and grandsons Gigalis, Braden, Dallas
and Zayden. Over the years Nella and Alex have taken in and cared for 29
children from their home territories.
It wasn’t until Nella was in grade 4 that integration occurred and
aboriginal students were allowed to attend the public schools. When she
was 12-years-old, the first Bighouse since the anti-potlatch law had
been lifted was built in Alert Bay. Watching it being built was a
highlight of her childhood.
Nella attended both Camosun College and the University of Victoria.
When she started teaching in public schools in 1979, aboriginal content
didn’t exist. After 11 years teaching, she coordinated the Victoria
School District’s Aboriginal Nations Education Division for 27 years.
She serves on Provincial, college, university, community boards and
advisory committees to improve aboriginal health, safety and education.
Nella has recieved the Queen’s 125 Commemorative Medal, YM/YWCA
Women of Distinction, Camosun’s Distinguished Alumni, and Excellence in
Cultural Heritage & Diversity Awards.
Nella’s motto is: “We strive to put a new memory into the minds of
our children.” Gilakasla
About the illustrator:
Karin Clark is a writer, teacher, and artist with over 35 years
experience working with both children and adults. She learned from and
taught with British Columbia’s First Nations in public and private
schools, colleges, and art classes, as well as university teacher
education programs. She co-wrote the book Framework for Developing First
Nations Curriculums with Nella Cook Nelson as well as 30 other books as
author or co-author.
With a primary focus on building bridges of understanding among
cultures, Karin has written and published books about how to appreciate
as well as how to draw, paint and carve in the artistic styles of the
Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations.
In an ideal world, everyone would experience a Potlatch or sit and
listen to elders teach us about it. Karin regards this book as a family
book to be shared. The children and adults in this story are all
different ages and at different stages of knowing and learning about
Kwakwaka’wakw culture. Parents, grandparents, older and younger siblings
and cousins, as well as older and younger friends can read it and learn
together. We can all learn about this fascinating culture as we read
Karin concurs with Nella’s observation that, “In a time when
technology plays an integral role in the lives of all people, it is
important for children and youth to remember the teachings of their
ancestors and to keep themselves grounded in their ancestral stories and
their sense of place.”
Pacific Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art: What Am I Seeing?
By Karin Clark
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Illustrates ten well-known objects and nineteen crest designs from the Pacific Northwest Coast along with meanings
and stories. Identifies seven main design elements along with variations. 112 colour illustrations and photos,
6.5" x 8.5" soft cover, 64 pages. Price $14.95 CAD & $14.95 US ISBN 978-0-9736769-4-5.
Also available in German, price $14.95 CAD & USD ISBN 978-0-9736769-5-2.
10 Abbildungen von Bekanten Gebrauchsgegenstaenden und 19 Wappen-Zeichnungen der Pazifischen Nordwestkuesten-Indianer
mit Erklaerungen zu ihren Bedeutungen und ueberlieferten Legenden. Beschreibungen von 7 traditionellen Musterteilen und
ihren verschiedenen Variationen. 112 farbige Abbildungen und photos. 16.5 cm x 21.5 cm, 64 Seiten.
Preis $14.95 CAD & $14.95 US ISBN 978-0-9736769-5-2.
UPDATE: Oct 16, 2007 Our new publication "Pacific Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art: What Am I Seeing"
is now available and has also been translated into German - "Die Kunst der Indianer an der pazifischen Nordwestkueste." Both books began shipping on Oct 19th. 2007.
This guide book, designed to give you a glimpse of Pacific Northwest Coast Aboriginal art, will give you
a deeper understanding and whet your appetite for learning more about today's vibrant, complex aboriginal cultures. Three sections show you where to look to identify many of the things you will see--from three-dimensional objects like bentwood
boxes, ceremonial houses, masks and canoes, to crest designs, to the main design elements in Pacific Northwest Coast aboriginal art.
Price: $14.95 Cdn $14.95 U.S.
UPDATE: April 25, 2005 The first set of our cross-stitch books
began shipping on April 25th. 2005.
The first of a series, this book contains the three full-size colour cross-stitch patterns from the West,
Mid, and North Coast shown on the front cover. Patterns are full size and are approximately 37 cm x 27 cm (14" x 11")
with each based on accurate, tradional designs. Also included is a First Nations area map, Aboriginal art within a
cultural context, Aboriginal designs used in cross stitch explanation, illustrated cross stitch instructions.
Soft cover, 8 1/2" x 11", 36 pages.
UPDATE: October 25th/2002 Learning by Designing Volume 2 (see below)
is now in stock and being shipped.
The cost is the same as Volume 1: $32.95 Canadian + GST (also $32.95 in the USA ) + shipping
For international shipping it is best to contact us for an exact quote. We have shipped to Africa, Australia, Belgium,
Brazil, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
This companion manual to Volume 1 puts First Nations art into deeper cultural context, providing Native Indian
philosophy, knowledge and skills foundation, code of ethics, and interviews with a contemporary First Nations family,
as well as some aspects of historical context and a description of the Potlatch. A full colour, 16-page creation story
with 20 designs is included.
Additional topics include: contemporary design evolution with 50 examples, 20 designs to draw and paint, and a Quick
Reference Chart containing over 100 designs. Durable soft cover, 176 pages.
Here are some of the reviews we have received so far:
LEARNING BY DESIGINING PACIFIC NORTHWEST COAST NATIVE INDIAN ART VOLUME 2 by JIM GILBERT AND KARIN CLARK
Reviewed by Reg Ashwell
Freelance writer and Northwest Coast art dealer and collector,
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Those collectors and admirers of Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian art who enjoyed Volume 1 of Learning By Designing by
Jim Gilbert and Karin Clark are in for an even greater treat now that Volume 2 has arrived. For those latecomers who have not
yet read Volume 1, it is highly recommended that they read it first and then carry on to the companion Volume 2, which is so
essentially a follow up of the previous book.
I particularly enjoyed Karin Clark's moving column on the late and great Jim Gilbert in which she pays tribute to the
artist's prodigious efforts to further world wide appreciation of the art of the Pacific Northwest Coast native Indian
people. In Volume 2, we are treated to warm and wonderfully informative interviews with First Nations people such as
Ruth Cook, George Cook, Nella Nelson and Wedlidi Speck.
Particularly fascinating is a Four Worlds Colour Section with original black and white illustrations by Jim Gilbert.
It is a Pacific Northwest Coast native Creation Story as told by Wedlidi Speck and magnificently rendered in four
hand-painted colour sections by Ron Stacy. Wedlidi Speck is a born story teller whose prose, as told from a First Nations
colourful and captivating reading. Below is a quote from what he has to say about the human element of the "fourth world".
"Seekers of sacred knowledge and truth, throw yourself in the promise that is you; as an acorn, a tree awaits; as an egg a
salmon becomes. You are an ember enroute to becoming a sacred fire. Let the journey begin."
Let the journey begin indeed. There is so much information packed into this extremely well- written and exhaustively
researched second volume, I found myself reading many pages twice, just to make sure that I had absorbed all of the
fascinating text. And those hundreds of exquisitely rendered illustrations by Jim Gilbert are superbly enhanced in
Volume 2 by the artistry of Ron Stacy, who has been happily immersing himself in the study of Pacific Northwest Coast
native art for many years.
Kudos to Karin Clark and the late Jim Gilbert, whose tireless efforts and endless research have resulted in two classic
volumes which are surely destined to find their way as valued additions to libraries, schools, cultural institutions and
other places of learning throughout North America.
W.F. (Bill) Judt,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am even more impressed with this volume than the last. If offers so many
new tools and insights that allow one to create imaginative and lively
designs that incorporate the numerous elements of the art form. I can see
this volume generating a lot of interest in my relief carving classes.
The carver in me got really excited at what I found between page 51 in the
"introduction to design" chapter and the "quick reference charts" ending on
page 152. The patterns are beautiful and the combinations almost endless. I
especially liked the design ideas in the sections on "elements - rain,
clouds, etc" and "Trees and Costal Islands. Beautiful.
Learning by Designing, Pacific NW Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 2 Acknowledgments
About the Authors
Overview of Learning by Designing
Building on a First Nations Foundation
Traditional First Nations Code of Ethics
Twelve Principles of Aboriginal Philosophy
First Nations Knowledge and Skills Foundation
Four Worlds Colour Section
Aboriginal Art within a Cultural Context
Talking with one contemporary First Nations Family
Introduction to Design
Evolution and Formation of Design Shapes
Evolution of the Ovoid - The Salmon Egg/Salmon Head Theory
Two-Dimensional Design Styles
Semi-Realistic Design Styles
Extended and Rearranged Design Styles
Myth Interpretation /Reading a Rearranged Design
Reading a Two-Dimensional Design
Overlapping - Depth and Perspective
Perspective - Birds Wings and Tails
The Elements - Rain, Clouds, Snow, Water, Ocean
Trees and Coastal Islands
Painting and Colours
Basketry Designs - Geometric, Decorative, Animal, Woven or Painted
Decorative Garments - Button and Applique
Culture & Art Style Regions of the Pacific Northwest Coast
Map: Four Major Art Style Regions of the Pacific Northwest Coast
Full Designs in the Style of the Four Art Areas
North Coast Designs
Mid Coast Designs
South Coast Designs
West Coast of Vancouver Island Designs
Summary Chart Quick Reference Charts
Natural Elements and Heavenly Bodies
Appendix A: Some Aspects of History of the Coastal First Peoples
Appendix B: The Potlatch
Karin Clark, Raven Publishing
P.O. Box 325,
5581 Horne Rd.
Union Bay, B.C. V0R 3B0
Toll Free 1-877-333-0723
Update: June 2002 Our 3rd book, "Learning by Designing, Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 2" is being edited at this time.
As long as we can hold to our schedule the first printing for this book will be in the fall of 2002. All customers having
purchased previous books directly from us will be advised when this printing begins, as it usually takes a month before the
first run arrives. We thank all of our customers and we value each of the positive comments we have received from you.
Karin Clark, Raven Publishing.