Coast Salish traditions shared

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

“Learning Coast Salish traditional knitting from Elder May Sam, and knitters Joni and Adam Olsen was a wonderful experience,” says Rosa McBee, anthropology student. May Sam, Joni Olsen and Adam Olse—all knitters from the Tsartlip First Nation—taught students the basic art form of traditional Coast Salish knitting each week as part of the third-year Anthropology of Art course last term.

Students were required to complete two 12- inch squares for the creation of a large blanket as a class project. The course also included a world survey of art studies by anthropologists.

“We were given the chance to see how, outside of the production of the art, there was a lot more going on in terms of running a business and being a part of an economy,” says Silas Holdstock, anthropology student. “I came away with a sense of how these important art forms can have more profound connections to people and communities than we may realize.”

As part of the Salish Artist in Residence program, the knitters also created a traditional sweater, boots, hat, bag as well as a couture outfit. These garments will be placed on permanent exhibition in the Cornett building as part of the contemporary Salish art collection. The Salish Artist in Residence program is made possible through the generous support of George and Christiane Smyth.

“Our work with the knitters is an example of the efforts we are making in our Anthropology classes to build relationships with local First Nations within whose territories the university students and faculty are working and living today,” says Dr Andrea Walsh, Visual Anthropology professor.

At the end of the course the students decided to raffle off the blanket and give the proceeds (approximately $1,700 was raised) to the Tsartlip First Nation for a new stove in their longhouse.

“The students wanted to give back to the community for the knowledge shared in the cl#8299; the funds raised by the raffle will be gifted to the Tsartlip First Nation in the new year in recognition for the teachings,” says Walsh.

For more information about the Cornett Contemporary Salish Art Collection


In this story

Keywords: anthropology, Indigenous, arts

People: May Sam, Joni Olsen, Adam Olsen, Rosa McBee, Andrea Walsh

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