"Everything looked beautiful and was artistic, and we look at it today as being art, but to our ancestors, it
was just everyday living …they were done like that to represent your family, your community, and where you came from. We look at our Elders’ work that they’ve done, and look at the history, and now we can see what our families have come from, and what they have gone through. By seeing the designs in those blankets and the carvings, we’re able to tell that history."
– Xótxwes qas kayse’me
Stó:lō creative works are expressions of a living culture that reflect the past, include the contemporary, and inform the future. The existence of these works today, and their continuing creation, shows that the knowledge about making Stó:lō artistic material culture endures – it was not extinguished by experiences of colonization, multi-generational trauma, or successive attempts to destroy traditional skills and practices.
An exact translation for the English word “art” has not been found in Halq'eméylem, the language spoken by the Stó:lō. But, as all the creatives (artists) on this website explain, much has been lost, including the knowledge of whether items were made expressly for artistic purposes. What is true, is that making everyday items were opportunities for creative and personal expressions. House posts, masks, spindle whorls, blankets, baskets, drums, and other everyday items were made to serve practical, societal, and spiritual purposes first and foremost, but the careful work that went into each object resulted in incredible pieces with intrinsic aesthetic value – iyó:mex syó:ys (beautiful work).
Additionally, Stó:lō works are imbued with cultural and spiritual meaning, teachings, and stories. Stó:lō artists explain that there is a reason for each design, shape, and element that is added to a piece. As Xótxwes qas kayse’me says, “…everything [on my carving has] a meaning, what I prayed for at the time… what it showed me.”
For these reasons, defining Stó:lō works strictly as “art” may be viewed as a perpetuation of a system that places colonial values above Stó:lō material culture. On this website, we use “creative works” interchangeably with the word “art.” We also use the word “creatives” in addition to “artists” to refer to the individuals whose works we are featuring.
" ...things were functional, things weren’t just made for hanging on the wall, or for show-pieces. They were made to be used. The art form is only one part of Salish culture."
– Ā’i’ya , Stan Greene
(SRRMC 1996 SR023)