Thoughts on Cultural Images and Objectives by Janet Castilleja
11/27/2013 12:00 PM
Blog Post for ‘Somos Indios’
Kim Christen’s talk on the use of images of cultural objects and activities made me think about cultural images and objects that I have been around as a member of the Samish Indian Nation. The use of these images tends to be a sensitive issue. When I asked my older sister what images she thought I could use, she said, “None.” Since then, I have discussed this with a few people, but I am getting conflicting advice. I have decided to post some images anyway.
This is the view I remember from when my mother said, “Girls, this all used to be ours!” She was pretty incensed about the whole colonization thing. Her father was born in 1881, about 30 years after the Treaty of Point Elliot, so he could remember some of the things that happened. We were given to understand that it was our duty to do something about what has happened to the tribe. That was over fifty years ago, and I am still trying. Creative Commons This picture looks out on the San Juans from Chuckanut Drive.
This is a picture of my great-grandfathers cabin in Pioneer Park in Ferndale, WA. Of course, there was no glass in the windows when he had it. This is a tiny cabin, but he managed to have a post office and nine kids in it.
This is a picture of the New Guemes Village on Guemes Island. Samish people lived there from about 1873 until around 1910. The longhouse there is considered to be the last traditional longhouse of the Samish people. My great-great-grandfather, Whul-holt-en, lived there. He is buried in a little cemetery on Samish Island. Samish Island is named for the Samish people, as a number of other landforms in Whatcom Country, such as Lake Samish, near Bellingham, and Samish Bay, which you can probably see some in the above picture.
What follows is the first image I thought of. This image is of a skwani'lic or spirit board. The Samish have a spirit board which is used in certain ceremonies. For many years, an image of the skwani’lic was used on official documents and correspondence. When I was first elected to council in 1997, we were still using it as our official logo. Since then, we have started using a different logo, which I will get to later.
There was always some controversy about using the skwani’lic ,or spirit board, as the logo because it ( the skwani’lic ) was a sacred object. Our constitution contains a clause which prohibits using any image of the skwani’lic for commercial purposes. However, since we have used this image on public documents for a very long time, I thought it would be acceptable for me to use it in this blog post.
Another image that we use a lot is the current tribal logo. As I recall, this image started out as an image for the Samish Canoe Family. I have a coat with this image on it. This image pictures a hawk, a canoe paddle, a spindle whorl with an image of a man playing a stick game and an orca.
Maiden of Deception Pass KO KWAL AL WOOT
The Maiden of Deception Pass refers to a story pole that tells a story of the Samish people. This is a link to story: http://www.stonebard.com/maiden_of_deception_pass.htm. A story pole is similar to a totem pole except it usually has only one or two images on it, which tell a story. Although the story of the Maiden of Deception Pass is sacred to us, there is a story pole carved and erected by the Samish people in Deception Pass State Park on
Here is an image that we sometimes use for ceremonial purposes. My daughter has this tattooed on her back.
Here is a picture of a cedar pendant that I received at the 30-year celebration of the dedication of the maiden at Rosario beach.
I wouldn't post images of the following:
- Pictures of religious dances
- Sound recordings of personal or religious songs, unless I had permission.
- Pictures or images of ceremonies