Sockeye by Dennis Allen, Skokomish Nation
Sockeye, 2014, Dennis Allen, Skokomish Nation, silkscreen, edition of 270, paper size: 11" h x 14" w
There are five species of Pacific salmon: chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum. Chinook, sometimes called king salmon, are the largest and most prized among many native groups. All five species hatch in fresh water, mature in the sea, then return to their freshwater homes to spawn and die. They differ in migratory and feeding habits, length of life cycle, size, appearance and flesh quality.
Salmon are honored and celebrated by all coastal people; the fish serves as a powerful symbol of regeneration, self-sacrifice and perseverance.
Some myths tell of people who were kidnapped by Salmon and eventually returned to their villages with secret knowledge that enabled them to become great shamans. Other myths speak of shamans or chiefs voyaging to the undersea villages of the Salmon People to secure vital knowledge and power necessary for the survival and success of their own people.
Salmon is especially prominent in the art and mythology of the Coast Salish people, who use it as a unifying symbol of their nation. In the art, Salmon is identified by short fins, round eyes, downturned mouth, long body, scales and a modestly large, slightly bifurcated tail. Curly ears indicate the presence of a supernatural salmon.
Dennis Allen is a member of the Skokomish (Twana) Tribe. He was born in Shelton Washington in 1935. He is the son of William Allen and Rose Pulsifer (Allen). He Grandfather, Henry Allen, was one of the last carvers on the Skokomish Reservation.
His Grandmother was blind, so he took on the role of being her provider and caregiver. At an early age he learned how to hunt and fish…[and]…to make baskets…prepare traditional foods, gather materials and medicines, listen to legends, and take part in canoe carving.
He has developed his own style to coincide with the many legends that have been passed down to him. He creates from his heart, and enjoys every piece that he creates. He looks forward to expanding his career in many different mediums and dimensions. He continues to be an active community member and feels honored to take part of the revival of the Salish Art.