Mask depicting Salmon Woman by Janice Morin, Cree Nation
red cedar, abalone inlays, cedar bark rope, hair, pigment 13.5” h x 12” w x 6.5” d (21” h with hair)
Janice Morin is one of the few women carvers of the Northwest Coast, and many of her masks depict strong female images. In her mask of Salmon Woman, both the eye brows and forehead are images of salmon. The stained pigment of blue/green represents the sea that provides the bounty of salmon. The mask is intricately inlayed with pieces of abalone, representing water splashes as the salmon jump, and Salmon woman's regalia. On the top of the mask is a crown made of cedar bark rope, signifying that Salmon Woman is the daughter of a great Chief.
The Story of Salmon Woman (also known as Fog Woman)
Raven wanted to get married. He went to the chief called Fog-Over-The-Salmon, who had a beautiful daughter. The chief was glad that Raven wanted to marry his daughter, but he said "You must promise to treat my daughter well. Youmust have respect for her, and look after her. If you behave badly, she will leave you and you won't get her back."
Raven agreed to the chief's demands, and the couple were soon married. They lived happily in the village near the water all summer and fall. Then winter came, and they were without food.
One, bleak rainy day, after they had been hungry for some time, Raven's wife started making a basket. "What are you making a basket for?" asked Raven. "We have nothing to put in it." His wife did not answer him, but continued making the basket, until it was very big.
That night they went to sleep hungry again, and the next morning when Raven woke up, he saw his wife sitting on the floor washing her hands in the basket. He got up to look at what she was doing, and when she had finished, there were salmon in the basket! These were the first salmon ever created. Raven and his wife were very glad, and they cooked and ate the salmon. Every day, she did the same thing: she washed her hands in the basket, and when she had finished, there were salmon in it. Soon, their house was full of drying salmon, and they had plenty to eat.
After a while, however, Raven forgot that he owed his good fortune to his wife. He quarreled with her and got angry at her. He had forgotten the words of his father-in-law!
Raven's wife had enough and began to run towards the sea. Raven chased her, but when he tried to catch hold of her, his hands passed right through her body as if through mist. She ran into the water, and all the salmon she had dried followed her. Her figure became dim and she slowly disappeared into the mist.
Janice Morin is a Cree Nation artist born in 1957 in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. At the age of five her family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. She has been living in the Northwest Coast since. Janice was introduced to Northwest Coast art at the age of sixteen by Phillip “opie” Openheimer. She attended Langara Fine Arts in her late twenties.
Janice has been carving for thirty years and sill continues to do so. Her years of learning from her partner Randy Stiglitz, a Coast Salish artist and carver, have been invaluable. She has worked in different mediums such as acrylic paintings, wood, and clay. Janice currently lives on the the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.