Monday, July 2, 2007

Squaxin Island Tribe Museum Visit

On our way back from Portland (in April… maybe I should start posting twice weekly), we visited the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum Library and Research Center in Shelton, Washington. Driving north on Hwy 101, the road crisscrosses through many tribal reservations.

Although they are considered separate nations from the US, you don’t have to deal with the border crossing wait as you would coming into Canada. (For more basic information on tribal reservations, wikipedia has a good starting point: Tribal Reservations)

At the Museum, I met Charlene Krise, executive director of the museum. When I asked her about traditional paint making techniques, she had a couple of suggestions. The first suggestions was to try baking or firing my parent’s red clay dirt to get even darker colors. Looks like this might expand my palate, and also make for a lot of experiments!

She also mentioned that a number of tribal artists used to use chum (salmon) eggs as the basis of their paint medium. These eggs have a very high oil content. (I think I’ll stick with walnut oil, at least for now).

I spoke with her brother George, one of the artists featured at the museum, and asked him what kind of paint he used on his cedar sculptures. He uses acrylic. To him, it’s the act of creation that is important. He doesn’t feel that native art is any less authentic if modern paints or tools are used. He still has an intimate connection to his art, and it was just as moving to me. As photos were not permitted inside the museum, I encourage you to visit or take a look at their website.


  1. Troy -

    I enjoyed your page. Interesting project. Have you considered finding a white rock (maybe an evaporite like gypsum) and staining it with berries? That would get you out of the "shades of brown and gray" palette. Also, I grew up in the southwest. You can find green (shale), purple and yellow sand down there. You might want to look into sources of soil used by traditional Indian sand painters. Don't know how much travel the rules of your project permit. Lastly - if you want a good black, consider the black muck that forms at the bottom of old lakes and ponds that have little oxygen and lots of decayed plan matter. It smells bad (sulpher dioxide), but it can be really black and is quite smooth - almost claylike - if you findthe right source. Good luck with the project.

  2. Thanks for the kind words! I'll try some of those suggestions. I've got a "Rule Set" update coming very shortly (hopefully tonight if I can manage). In a nutshell: materials are no longer confined to just the Pacific Northwest, and material donations are accepted.

    Thanks again,