Salmon People

About this object


Coast Salish artist Susan A. Point of Musqueam often encorporates and adapts designs from older Coast Salish objects, such as spindle whorls, rattles, and combs, into her contemporary artwork. In an interview with Art Curator Karen Duffek (1985), the artist noted that this print uses a non-traditional design which she composed herself. It is one of her early ones, probably the fourth. She notes that "this design came about as a result of the different salmon legends that are told... So I just incorporated the human, representing the human itself transforming into the salmon."

Cultural context

contemporary art; traditional motifs; guardian spirit complex

Iconographic meaning

According to Coast Salish oral traditions, salmon assume human form and live in villages under the water. Twins are also associated with salmon. Anthropologist Homer Barnett notes that: "Twins were connected with salmon in the ideology of the northern [Coast Salish] groups only. Among them twins were always good fishermen... Twins knew when the salmon were coming and could make them hasten. They also knew what kind of salmon each newborn twin was. It was said that twins were salmon and that, when they died, they returned to the salmon home up north (1955:136)." As a guardian spirit salmon provide skill at fishing.

Physical description

Silkscreen print in blue-black coloured ink on white paper with an oval shaped design. The image depicts two seated anthropomorphic figures, one upright, the other an upside down mirror image. The figures each have their heads inside the body of a salmon, the salmon are also identical but not mirror images. The head of each salmon faces the tail of the one in front of it. In pencil underneath the image is written: 8/45 Coast Salish Spindle Whorl "Salmon People" 05/81 Susan A. Sparrow.