Impacts of Contact
Stó:lō artistic traditions and practices were greatly impacted by contact. The Potlatch Ban, the prohibition on practicing traditional spirituality, along with residential schools, and the “Sixties Scoop” caused substantial intergenerational trauma that disrupted thousands of years of traditional artistic knowledge.
The Potlatch Ban, also known as the Indian Act of 1884, was a law that aimed to suppress and eradicate Indigenous cultural practices, including traditional ceremonies. Stó:lō artistic tradition is closely tied to their cultural and spiritual practices. The potlatch was a central part of this tradition, as it was a way for the Stó:lō to exchange gifts, display their wealth and status, and strengthen their social and political networks. The Potlatch Ban, however, made it illegal for Indigenous people to engage in potlatches, which had a significant impact on Stó:lō artistic traditions. Along with this Act, a prohibition was also placed on practicing traditional spirituality. Many items which were used in ceremonies, such as masks, drums, woven blankets (which indicated status), and regalia, were confiscated and destroyed or put into museums. Traditional skills such as carving, weaving, and drum-making were forced to go underground, and some knowledge was inevitably lost.
The suppression of culture and forced assimilation of Stó:lō children into Euro-Canadian culture that resulted from the residential school system (1862-1985) and the “Sixties Scoop” (which refers to the mass removal of Stó:lō children from their families into the child welfare system, during the 1960s), also had a profound and devastating impact on the transmission of Stó:lō artistic traditions, as the knowledge needed to create works are passed down orally, and through hands-on learning. Additionally, the removal of children from their communities disconnected them from Stó:lō Téméxw, which, as has been shown, is an essential inspiration for creativity.
Despite these challenges, many Stó:lō artists continue to create and adapt their artistic traditions in the face of adversity. Today, Stó:lō creative works are a vital part of cultural expression and serve as ways to celebrate and preserve a rich history.