Artistic Expressions of First Nations’ Eating and Wealth by Judith Ann Richards
My husband Pete once remarked that he was a novice. I am also a novice, of the Alaska Native artistic culture, once removed!! Almost any Native Alaskan carver could call me out and state that I need to study a lot more. What I am able to recall from my late husband, is just that-- a recollection, so please accept my apology in advance for my errors.
The most important thing for First Nations people was survival. This explains how they came to view eating and celebrating as essentially life-giving. Eating is also a sign of wealth. Potlatches and sharing of goods in an abundant manner was a way of showing your wealth. The art was also a means of expressing what was/is important.
The art and culture that my spouse studied with Alaskans and carvers, had a near reverence for cedar, both yellow and red. The early artists used colors that derived from natural earth elements: burned wood, graphite, flowers and sometimes eggs. Black and red often represented death and life respectively. Sometimes, that was a death of a plan or an idea. The shape was also important, such as the shape of the eye on a sea creature was to remind the observer of the life-giving salmon (egg).
The Rev. Judith Ann Richards of Underwood, WA is helping to plan worship for PEC's “Blessing the Waters of Life” conference and is a member of the PEC Eco-Justice Team. She was serving a church in Ketchikan, Alaska when her husband, a Presbyterian ruling elder, created these carvings. Harold "Pete" Richards, passed away in 2013. He was an educator who taught at the high school level. He loved to work with wood and loved God's Creation. While in Ketchikan Alaska, he assisted and developed plans to repair many churches throughout Southwest Alaska.
About the images: (clockwise from top left) Drums were an important part of story telling, and celebration. Painting the drum elevated the percussion instrument in acting out a story. Pair of dance rattles, a raven and eagle. A fish bowl. A greasebowl was filled with a fish oil that was wonderful for cooking, eating and showing of abundance. The inside rim was placed in the bowl to scrape off the spoon. All by Harold "Pete" Richards.