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Transcript: Healing Arts

Jewell James
When we did the national healing totem pole for 9-11 it was because we were aware of that a lot of families lost a lot of people.
We wanted to encourage healing, mutual healing, a community of support, an awareness that we’re all part of the same society here, and we need to work together regardless of what ethnicity or cultural background we came from.
Worldwide native peoples are trying to reawaken some of the traditional knowledge they lost. We weren’t allowed to carve our regalia, our masks, or wear or gear. We weren’t allowed to sing our songs and do the dances of ceremonies. We weren’t allowed to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. We could only talk about what Christianity wanted us to talk about. It had to be in a Christian form or it was unacceptable. It had to be talked about in English or it was not acceptable. If you spoke Indian, they burned your tongue or whipped you, you know and you were sent to boarding schools and missionary schools.
But we had our own concept of the sacred and we had a philosophy of life and song, dance, ceremony, and mythology gave us that. It gave us a concept of cosmology that we are a part of creation, and so we carve an eagle or we carve a sun or a moon or a salmon or a bear or a raven, you know and we say at one time they’re humans and another time they’re in animal form. You know, they shape shift, you know and that’s part of our teaching.
By forming a relationship with the environment, you create it differently than if it’s an object to be conquered and destroyed at will. By carving the art and bringing the images back to life we’re trying to reawaken a psychology of being healthy, you know, so we’re hoping that these symbols not only teach that you had a relationship with all of creation but they’re symbolic of something inside. It awakens something. And so for us the totem art is a way of trying to reawaken it’s okay to be who you are, you know, fell comfortable inside.

See the Exhibition

See the Exhibition

Discover the interconnected relationships between health, illness, and cultural life in Native communities.