Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cross Currents: Don't Forget the Water - Salish Sea

by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick
Salish Sea
30"x24" oil on linen 2014 

Two years ago on a technicolor blue day, I stood on the deck of the Wenatchee ferry cutting through the choppy sea from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The vessel was named for the Wenatchi people who originally lived in the shadow of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers in Eastern Washington State. We are riding on a ship of memory.

In the Yakama language, wenatchi means "river flowing from canyon." The Wenatchee River was home to a vibrant salmon run prior to the damming of the Columbia River which impeded the salmon's journey. Like the fish, the Wenatchi tribe was also blocked from its ancestral waterways as the US government rounded up the Native Americans in Washington State and collected them in reservations far from their native lands. 

I often think about the rivers, lakes, towns and cities we have named after the original Americans. The absence of most of their culture in our increasingly mini-malled landscape points to the brutal erasure of Indian tribes across the United States. The dominant culture in America seems to continually romanticize, while at the same time ostracizing, the rich history of Native Americans. The writer Sherman Alexie will have none of that, thank you. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington before graduating from Washington State University. Alexie is a major player in contemporary writing. His well-received novels, Reservation Blues and Indian Killer helped pave the way for his foray into film with Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing. Alexie writes with courage about his experiences as an Indian in a white culture. Alexie also writes, as Andrea Vogt in Washington State Magazine reported, with "brutal honesty-some might even say disdain-about ignorance, alcoholism, and other problems on the rez."  

The Business of Fancydancing leads Gene Tagaban (Aristotle Joseph), Michelle St. John (Agnes Roth), and Evan Adams (Seymour Polatkin), with writer/director Sherman by Lance Muresan
Courtesy Washington State Magazine
For Alexie and other Native American activists ignoring the problems exacerbated by systemic racism in the US is out of the question. With that in mind, for over 20 years an annual inter-tribal Canoe Journey has been held on the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea is a 6,500 square mile ecosystem consisting of the Puget Sound Basin (US) and the Georgia Basin (Canada). 
Canoe Journey 2016, Paddle to Nisqually, continues the inter-tribal celebration and annual gathering of Northwest indigenous nations. The website for Paddle to Nisqually goes into great detail about the history and significance of the event:
"Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.
When Europeans began exploring the region, the tribes were used to meeting and welcoming strangers who arrived by boat. Sadly, the Europeans did not understand the hospitality culture of the coastal tribes as the tribes were displaced over the next two centuries. The canoe culture, as practiced by the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, had all but disappeared until the Canoe Journey events began to grow in the 90’s. Techniques of canoe making and use had largely vanished and fewer and fewer tribal people knew how to pull a traditional canoe. Now...a new tradition is well into the making and a cultural resurgence is underway."
The Salish Sea is a 6,500 square mile ecosystem consisting of the Puget Sound Basin (US) and the Georgia Basin (Canada). 
The theme for this years Canoe Journey is "Don't Forget the Water" in honor of the Nisqually Tribe's Mountain story.  

The Nisqually Tribe finds hope in the annual canoe journey and its focus on community building:
The Nisqually River Council’s Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (NWSP) recognizes that community wellness is a key component of creating a sustainable watershed. We embrace the people who live in the Nisqually watershed, their sense of identity and responsibility that has existed for generations. Strong communities require, among other things, access to the arts and high community health indicators. Paddle to Nisqually represents a unique opportunity to highlight the many efforts the Nisqually Tribe makes to promote community wellness, including a culture free of drugs and alcohol, access to traditional and healthy foods, and close ties to Nisqually heritage.
Looking back now on that day on the ferry, I see things through the veil of my painting and the complicated history of the region. There is an accumulation of memories gathered in this Salish Sea as the Wenatchee ferry carries its passengers towards their destination. How many canoes over the centuries have traversed this same path?
In my painting Salish Sea, who is the rider on the bow of this ship of memory? 

Gregg Chadwick's Salish Sea is on exhibit at Saatchi Art through September 29, 2016 in the group exhibition Cross Currents. There will be an opening on Thursday, July 21, 2016 from 6-9pm. For more info and to RSVP please visit:

New Works by Los Angeles Artists 
Saatchi Art, the world's leading online gallery, presents new works in celebration of LA's first citywide Public Art Biennial, Current: LA.
July 21, 2016
6–7pm VIP Preview
7–9pm Public Reception
Featuring special musical guest
1655 26th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
RSVP by July 20

CROSS CURRENTS is a new exhibition on view at Saatchi Art in Santa Monica. Curated by Katherine Henning, Associate Curator, and Jessica McQueen, Assistant Curator, the exhibition continues Saatchi Art's series of shows around the world.
The exhibition highlights the work of 14 emerging artists represented by Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online gallery: Gregg Chadwick, Fabio Coruzzi, Charlotte Evans, Art van Kraft, Chase Langford, Koen Lybaert, Lola Mitchell, Harry Moody, Relja Penezic, Kelly Puissegur, Stephen Rowe, Erin Tengquist, Dean West, and Naomi White.
The exhibition is on view from July 21 through September 29, 2016 at Saatchi Art, located at 1655 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA. Gallery hours: Monday through Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday by appointment. Please email to schedule a visit during gallery hours. Gallery
All works are on sale at the exhibition and online at Saatchi Art:

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