Sockeye Salmon Panel, 2006
by Stan Wamiss, Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation
red cedar, copper teeth, pigment
22" high x 55" long x 7" deep
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Salmon are honored and celebrated by all coastal people, as the fish serve as a powerful symbol of regeneration, self-sacrifice and perseverance. The historically abundant fish are viewed as a life source for many indigenous communities.
Many legends express the importance of appreciating these powerful creatures and observing traditional gestures of respect. For example, many believe that it is imperative to return all of the first caught Salmon's bones back into the river and seas after eating. If this ritual is not observed, Salmon will not return.
Salmon's power is represented in many legends. One popular tale tells about a group of people who were kidnaped by Salmon and when returned to their villages, had secret knowledge enabling them to become great shamans. Other narratives recount shamans and chiefs voyaging undersea to secure crucial knowledge and power from Salmon people to foster survival and success for their people.
Kwakwaka'wakw artist Stan Wamiss was born in 1947 on Gilford Island and raised at Kingcome Inlet, British Columbia, Canada. Stan learned to carve from his father Tom “Patch” Wamiss who was a master carver and the highest ranking chief in Kingcome Inlet. Tom “Patch” Wamiss was the first chief in the Kwaguilth Nation to hold a Potlatch after the ban was lifted in 1952.
Stan credits the book “Smokey Top: The Art of Willie Seaweed,” with inspiring him to begin carving in 1975 at the suggestion of his sister, Dorothy Speck. He prefers to work in the soft red cedar local to British Columbia, and carves superb masks, totems, sculptures, panels, and talking sticks.
Some of Stan’s work was featured in the 1988 Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition "Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast,” an exhibit that traveled to number of selected museums across North America including Portland, OR and Los Angeles, CA. Stan currently lives on Vancouver Island, and along with his commission work, carves pieces for many galleries both in Canada and abroad.