“Raven and the Eyes of Stolen Children” by Coast Salish Artisan, Kathleen Rose Sears.
Photo: Jeffrey Bosdet
The horrors of the Residential Schools are never far from my mind.
My mother was in one, and 8 of my 11 siblings were in one. I may have been lucky, if that’s what you want to call it, not to have been in one, but the aftershocks from the rest of my families’ experiences still hit hard on myself. There have been suicides, drug use, and alcoholism stemming from the abuse that my mother and my siblings dealt with.
There are still ripples to this day, and I wanted to find a way to bring attention to it and maybe as therapy for me to deal with this. I decided to use the Raven, as he is a messenger. Normally when I do artwork, there is a lot of drawing to see where I am going, but not with this work.
My ancestors were behind me all the way, from my heart to my brain to my eyes and hands. I ’saw’ where I was going without putting it down on paper. After I had finished sewing the Raven, I knew that there were a few pieces to be added. Hence the rosary and the dogwoods. My piece has nothing to do with god, but rather the church and religion where the horrifying abuse came from.
RAVEN & THE EYES OF STOLEN CHILDREN is dedicated to my mom, my brothers and sisters and to the many other families who were directly or indirectly involved with Residential Schools.
Kathleen Rose Sears
Have you noticed the work of two local Coast Salish Artists in recent ArtSea promotional materials? The Feather design is a graphical representation of a wood carving by KAtēwha‡et, Tom LaFortune, from SȾAUTW̱ (Tsawout First Nation). And the octopus design was created by Sarah Jim, an emerging artist from the Tseycum village, and a member of the W̱SÁNEĆ nation.
KAtēwha‡et, Tom LaFortune, is from SȾAUTW̱ (Tsawout First Nation). He has ancestral ties to many nations of what’s known, for now, as southern Vancouver Island.
Tom has been carving since he was 11 years old, and his decades of work includes masks, rattles, paddles, dishes, talking sticks, single figures, and countless story poles.
Tom’s esteemed designs can be found in collections the world over, and he typically has many projects on the go. His most notable works include: the Harvest Time and Owl Spirit poles completed for Duncan’s City of Totems project; a CBC commissioned totem pole broadcasted in the 1994 Commonwealth Games; a single owl figure overlooking the Ross Fountain at the world-famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria; S’ael, a twenty-five foot pole completed as part of Royal Roads University’s 75 years of changing lives celebrations; and a Salish archway in Fort Rodd Hill.
Sarah Jim is an emerging artist of mixed ancestry, and is a member of the W̱SÁNEĆ nation from the Tseycum village. She has received a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria and emulates her love of nature and native plant knowledge through her artwork.
Environmental restoration work has been her main source of inspiration since 2018 when she started working in SṈIDȻEȽ; the first W̱SÁNEĆ village site. Working on the land has resulted in deep insights of how language, culture, traditional knowledge, and art are all intimately connected to the natural realm.
Learning about the direct connection between culture and place has helped empower Sarah as a W̱SÁNEĆ person and a Coast Salish artist. Her curiosity, love, and admiration for the outdoors and native plants continues to propel her in a direction that helps heal the community, land, and herself through plant medicines, native foods, restoration work, and creating place-based artwork.