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Story of the SIÁM SȽEȽWÁȽ NOṈET SWEꞢE,Ƚ (Highly Respected One's, Peace of Mind at Last) Blanket

Blanket name, interpretation and translation, provided by JSIṈTEN, Dr. John Elliott. 

Highly Respected Peace of Mind at Last blanket in dining hall
SIÁM SȽEȽWÁȽ NONET SWEꞢE,Ƚ hangs in Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ.

The ‘Highly Respected One's, Peace of Mind at Last’ Coast Salish Woven Blanket is made with the intention of sharing values and teachings of the land, with acknowledgement of the First Peoples and their important teachings.

Myrna Crossley’s husband, the late Master Coast Salish Carver/Artist TEMOSEṈ-ŦET Charles Elliott, talked about how art is an act of resurgence and resistance, and that by weaving blankets, including this blanket, the wet moldy blanket of oppression and colonization is being lifted off their backs and being replaced with a blanket that belongs to their culture.

"This 'highly respected' nobility-style blanket now lifts off the blanket of oppression and colonization and replaces it with a blanket from our culture in the university. This means 'peace of mind at last' for First Nations and the Settlers." 
—Myrna Crossley


Myrna starts her day weaving with smudging and meditation, seeking guidance from the Creator. She reflects on the teachings of the Elders about how the four elements of nature, the four stages of life and the four seasons of the year are significant in all our lives. It is important to practice the protocols, not only for the weaving but also for the harvesting of the materials, the wool and natural dyes, which will complete the project. At the end of each day of work, she covers the weaving with a blanket.

Coast Salish Blankets

Woven woolen blankets are an integral part of Coast Salish culture, and they are of significant cultural importance. For example, Nobility Blankets or Chiefly Robes are only worn by high-ranking people and they are usually large enough (5’ x 5’) to wrap the person from head to toe. A Wedding Blanket is double in size so it is large enough to wrap the couple together. 

Blankets used for Ceremony vary in size. There are standing blankets (4’ x 4’), sitting blankets (2’ x 3’), and woven head bands and sashes are often worn with blankets that wrap over one shoulder, usually of the cultural workers. The Blanket uses were numerous, and they had daily-use purposes as well as ceremonial ones. The Blanket was once a form of currency and was often used for trade.   

Weaving Process

Wool was once sourced from the now-extinct Salish Woolly Dog and these dogs were kept on islands to preserve their breed. Mountain sheep wool was used, and it was sourced from the mainland. Today, sheep wool is used.  

The raw wool is washed, carded and spun on a treadle spinner. If colour is needed the wool is placed in a dyebath for a period of time. Wool, after being spun, is then shocked. This means that the wool will be soaked in cold water and then transferred to hot water, heated thoroughly, then plunged back into the cold water. This process tightens and shrinks the fibres and adds strength to the wool. Wool used for warping, however, is doubled, so two yarns are spun together, prior to shocking, to strengthen the blanket framework.  

Traditionally, a carved spindle whorl was used to spin the wool. The carver of the spindle whorl worked in collaboration with the weaver and carved a design on the spindle whorl that symbolized spiritual protection for the weaver. The disk is traditionally made from maple wood, and it is up to 10 inches in diameter. Weavers today often use a treadle or electric spinners and some use commercially spun wool. Myrna uses a treadle spinner to spin the wool.

Blankets are woven on traditional upright Salish looms with stationary bars that are secured horizontally on the top and bottom of the frame and there is one movable floating horizontal bar in the middle that is held by the warped wool. The wool that wraps around the upper, lower, and floating bars of the frame is the warp and the wool that is woven across is called the weft.

Dyeing of the wool

close up of wool dying process

Almost all natural dyes are used in this Blanket. They include berries, barks and plants that colour the wool naturally and the harvesting of these is seasonal. Today, commercial dyes are used. The dye in this Blanket was sourced from nettle, hedge nettle, salal berries (in a copper pot), onion skin and onion skin with madder root, brazilwood bark, brazilwood bark with soda ash, cochineal with madder, mulberry bark (fustic), mulberry bark with iron, blackberry, maple bark. Only one commercial brown dye used for this Blanket.   

Prior to dyeing the wool, a mordant (metal such as alum) is used to treat the wool; a process that opens the cells of the wool to receive the colour and to hold it. First, the wool is soaked for 30 minutes in a mordant mixed with water. The wool is then placed in dyebaths, using stainless steel pots, but using copper, aluminum or iron pots can change the colour outcome. Colour modifiers, such as cream of tartar, iron, soda ash and calcium can be used to vary the colour. 

“The process of using natural dyes has taught me the importance of being connected to the land that we live on, and the responsibility that we have, to protect Mother Earth and what is remaining of her natural landscape. The Garry Oak ecosystem, which once covered the homelands of the W̱SÁNEĆ and the lək̓ʷəŋən People are at risk and endangered, with only five per cent remaining in BC. This is why I always practice my protocols when harvesting.”
—Myrna Crossley 


The designs of Salish Woven Blankets vary, and the colours and shapes usually carry special meaning for the Blanket wearer. The bands of colour that border across the four large triangles represent our connection to the land and the four larger triangle designs are bordered by four brown triangles on the outer edge and they represent the steps a person needs to take to achieve their goals. 

The inner squares of the various colours represent the family and community that have assisted the wearer to achieve their goals—each person has a gift to share. The yellow half-triangles represent each new day, and the blue T design represents the wearer on their journey, surrounded by the love and teachings of their family and community. 

The alternating horizontal V shape represent the ongoing change in one’s life. The triangles of orange and brown represent man and woman and movement in life. The alternating upright lines of colour represent the steadfast teachings and beliefs that the wearer carries. The white areas represent the ongoing teachings that carries one through life.  

In the creation of the design, the weft weave can be varied with a twine weave or a twill weave. The twine weave wraps around each warp and the twill goes over and under the warp. Variations of both will produce patterns. The twine is used for designing triangles, squares and solid lines that are woven tightly using different colours; and the twill weave produces a looser patterned weave. The more intricate designed blankets will be woven completely using the twine weave.

Biography of Myrna Crossley

Songhees weaver Myrna Crossley.
Songhees weaver Myrna Crossley.

Myrna Crossley is a member of the Songhees Nation, of the lək̓ʷəŋən-speaking who are the traditional owners of the land now known as Victoria, BC. Her Indigenous roots come through her late maternal grandparents and mother, who were part of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. Her late father was a second-generation settler of English descent. Myrna has made her home on the Tsartlip reserve in W̱SÁNEĆ lands with her late husband and family since 1990.

Myrna began wool weaving in 1993, and she learned from Master Weaver Rita (Louis) Bob of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations. Rita Bob was one of the women who was instrumental in the revival of Coast Salish Weaving; she shared her knowledge with students over the years both in Canada and the United States.

Myrna’s protocol for weaving starts with daily prayers, smudging and meditation, seeking guidance and giving gratitude. Projects in development must also be ‘covered’ at the end of each day until the project is complete; and prayers are offered in the harvesting of plant dye materials, giving thanks to the land for providing.  Myrna adds: 

“I enjoy all aspects of Salish weaving, from gathering the plant material for dyes, the spinning and finally the weaving. I feel fortunate to have been taught a skill that my ancestors practiced and with every blanket I weave I learn something new. I was given a treadle spinner handed down from my great-grandmother which inspired me to learn. Blankets have a significant importance in our culture and are used in many of our ceremonies and either worn or gifted at ceremonies. It is a practice that requires you to be of a good mind and spirit when working, otherwise the wool does not work with you. I consider myself a lifetime student of weaving and grateful for the teachings from my mentors, Elders, plants, and wool itself. I also give thanks for the opportunity to create and share this Blanket in this space of higher learning.”

Commissioned Works & Major Projects:  

Myrna’s weavings are commissioned, locally and nationally and they are most often for cultural use; and Myrna has participated in some major projects:

  • From 1999 to 2003, Myrna participated in the Annual “Coast Salish Artists and Friends Show,” held on the Saanich Peninsula for seven years, founded and organized by her late husband Charles Elliott, Master Salish Carver/Artist, herself, and other local artists.
  • In 2001, Myrna made a blanket for a University of Victoria Indigenous Law Students, to hold ceremonial items for their national Kawaskimhon Moot. The blanket was gifted back to Myrna on March 10, 2023 and Myrna was told of the many gifts her blanket had held over the years.
  • In 2021, Myrna made the ceremonial blanket for the Installation of the University of Victoria President Kevin Hall.
  • In 2022, Myrna made a blanket for the Canadian Blood Services of Ottawa, Canada, to represent their commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. 
  • In 2022, Myrna participated in a family art show titled “JSIṈTEN ŚWELOꞢE – family growing ourselves up”. Hosted by the Salt Spring Community Arts Council and curated by Rose Spahan, the exhibit showcased works by Myrna, her late husband Charles Elliott, son Temoseng Chazz Elliott and nephew Matt Parlby and it included an art/history catalogue.
  • In 2022, Myrna made the SIÁM SȽEȽWÁT NONET SWEꞢE,Ƚ, 'Highly Respected One's, Peace of Mind at Last’ Salish Woven Blanket, for the University of Victoria Student Services. This blanket was made to demonstrate the University’s commitment to reconciliation and meaningful engagement with the lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ This blanket is more for art than for cultural purposes since it will not be worn.  The ‘Peace of Mind at Last' Blanket is in the student housing and dining building called čeqʷəŋin ʔéʔləŋ.