Native Spirit art exhibit showcases Tulalip culture

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Thirty years ago, you couldn’t find a map using the term “Salish Sea” for the Puget Sound region. There were Seattle galleries and souvenir shops aplenty selling Native art, but the masks, totem poles and sinuous formline animal prints were designs from hundreds of miles away, not from here. 

Thirty years ago, no major art museum in Washington had mounted an exhibit highlighting Native created works of our own lands and waters. Salish artists were indeed honing their skills and creating beautiful works of art, but the critical interest and most gallery attention was focused on art from Alaska and the Canadian coast.

In 1989, the balance started to tip. Washington’s Centennial exhibit of Native arts opened, managed by Patricia Cosgrove and Kenneth Watson. Both art historians were on a mission to convince Washingtonians that totem poles are not indigenous to this area and that Salish art is. The exhibit was incredibly successful, and soon many influences aligned to literally change the landscape of the Northwest Native art market.

Ever since, the diligence and commitment of so many artists and their allies has led to the word ‘Salish’ entering mainstream vocabulary. This insured the characteristic sweeping lines and subtle patterns of Salish arts remains recognizable and emblematic of the greater Seattle area.

Through the effort of many, this vision has come true. High quality galleries like Seattle’s Stonington Gallery and Steinbrueck Native Gallery feature experienced and rising artists from across the Salish Sea region. Generations of new artists have risen in skill and popularity. Today, Salish art is an explosion of innovation and creativity that still has a firm foundation in our region’s heritage.

That innovation and creativity of Coast Salish artistry is currently on full display at the Mobius Art Gallery, located in Bothell on the Cascadia Community College campus. Inside the gallery mounts an unprecedented five-week long exhibition titled Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures.

“The artists and artwork in this exhibition embody a wide range of spirit and narratives that live within their Native cultures,” stated exhibit curator Chris Gildow. “Their skills, creativity, and passions are equaled only by their commitment to breathe life into artwork they create. Their artwork tells us about the connection between human and animal worlds, about salvation and transformation, and about our relationship with the Earth. This exhibition lets us share these stories and traditions with the entire community.”

On Tuesday, October 9, the auditorium adjacent to Mobius Art Gallery was filled with excited art enthusiasts and college students who heard there would be a traditional Native American welcome ceremony to mark Native Spirit’s grand opening. Led by Ray Fryberg, the Tulalip Canoe Family filled the auditorium with traditional song and dance to commemorate the special occasion. 

Eight artists were selected to be showcased in the Coast Salish themed exhibit, which includes handcrafted submissions by five talented Tulalip tribal members: Mike Gobin, Tillie Jones, Ty Juvinel, James Madison, and the artist known as Cedar.

Lower Elwha artist Alfred Charles, Jr. and Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel. 

“It shows there’s a lot of talent in Tulalip,” said art gallery contributor Ty Juvinel. “We’ve grown a lot as artists. Seeing all the different artwork and local artists represented here is awesome.”

“I met the curator of this exhibit, Chris Gildow, about a year ago when he asked me about a Salish exhibit that he wanted to put on here at Cascadia College,” added Lower Elwha artist Alfred Charles, Jr. “As artists, he gave us free reign to create whatever we wanted. I’m excited that so many people came out and shared their art with the community. This exhibit turned out great.”

Coast Salish art is rich in its diversity of forms. Masks, weavings, wood carvings, jewelry, and intricate bead work are but a few of the common mediums often associated with the Coast Salish style. Subject matter includes, but is not limited to, human and animal forms, spiritual themes and mythic figures. A diverse selection of artwork was chosen to be on display. 

Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures will be on display until November 15. Mobius Art Gallery is open and free to the public Monday – Thursday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information please visit

Traditional Cooking, the Salish Way

By: Dina Gilio, Indian Country Today

The Pacific Northwest is known by indigenous peoples for its natural bounty, spanning from the rich mountain forests and salmon-filled rivers to the vast abundance of seafoods provided by Mother Ocean.  Such a wide nutritional variety paves the way for a cuisine that is distinctly Salish, showcased in the recently released second edition of an ebook called Salish Country Cookbook: Traditional Foods & Medicines from the Pacific Northwest. Written by Rudolph C. Rÿser (Taidnapam Cowlitz) originally in 2004 and published by Daykeeper Press, the updated version includes new dessert recipes, expanded information about ingredients (in their Latin and Native names), and additional full color photos. The author draws on his experience growing up eating traditionally gathered and hunted foods such as deer, elk, bear, duck and beaver.

The 146-page volume features recipes for everything from appetizers to salad dressings, and main dishes to sweet treats. There is also a section for teas and juices. As a holistic project, however, it also includes sections dedicated to traditional Salish cooking knowledge, the basic Salish pantry, the importance of Oolichan oil, the cultural aspects of Salish cooking, and the dangers of modern contamination. The book wouldn’t be complete without a compendium of commonly used plants in Salish country, with details about harvesting techniques and culinary and medicinal uses.

With a forward written by Leslie Korn, Ph.d., MPH, author of Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature, and the Body and director of the Center for Traditional Medicine in Olympia, Washington, the central organizing theme of the book is restoring Native health and community through a return to traditional foods. Recognizing the connection between escalating rates of modern illnesses like diabetes and heart disease and the loss of traditional foods, the book emphasizes the destructive force of many modern ingredients. As Korn writes: “We have tried to maintain the integrity of each dish by using foods that do not raise the glycemic level or use gluten-based products, both sugar and gluten being harmful to most indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere (as well as peoples from other parts of the world including Europe).”

Food gathering and preparation is a central aspect of traditional knowledge, as Rÿser writes. For example, being in the right frame of mind is imperative for the life-giving force of traditional foods to ensure that food is infused with happiness and calmness. Cooking methods further contribute to the health-imparting benefits of traditional foods. Microwave ovens and high temperature cooking, for instance, should be avoided in favor of slower, lower temperature cooking to protect food’s nutritional integrity.

Adapting traditional foods in a contemporary context is also a creative process and is reflected in the recipes offered in the book. You won’t find fry bread here, but you will find healthy ingredients such as stevia and berry juices (instead of refined sugar), rice or cattail flour (instead of processed white flour), and coconut or olive oil (instead of conventional vegetable oils).

Salish Country Cookbook can be purchased for $9.99 through the Center for Traditional Medicine at