When driving from the Kitsap Peninsula to destinations on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula there are fascinating places to stop. The Olympic Peninsula is home to eight groups of indigenous people. These groups, today, are striving to keep their culture, lifestyle and art traditions alive.
One of these groups are the S’Klallams. These coastal people created a rich cultural, social and traditional life. According to the tribal website, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has evolved directly from several constituent communities of the S’Klallam Tribe. The S’Klallam Tribe (meaning “strong people”), a Salish cultural and linguistic group were mostly related to the Sook and other Tribes of British Columbia, but also related to most of the Tribes of the Puget Sound Area. The S’Klallam Tribe was a clearly defined social and cultural unit, whose component villages were closely linked by inter-marriage and other cooperative social ties. This Tribe, first contacted in 1790, was signatory to the Point No Point Treaty with the U.S. in 1855.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Northwest Native Expressions Art Gallery represents the art of this group of villages and their people. In their beautiful community complex, you will find the gallery full of traditional art and symbolism. Yes, there are tourist items such as t-shirts and dream catchers but the gallery, and staff, represent authentic art and local artists as their primary business.
I stopped at the complex right off Highway 101 in the Sequim area. In the complex you will find a stairway to the totem carving shed, which you are welcome to visit (I will be describing this in a future article).
The gallery, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m., makes for a great stop. I was intrigued with the carvings, many of them flat and suitable for hanging on a wall. One that drew my eye was of a sea otter holding a spiny sea urchin, just as sea urchins do, on his stomach. The artist had carved long spines coming out of the sea urchin. Also available were some beautifully woven and decorated traditional cedar hats.
A small but interesting gift item, Makah shell and bead necklaces, were hanging in the jewelry section, The Makah people, who live on Neah Bay, have used Olive Shells for decoration, trade and for welcoming jewelry for generations. The artist had taken the Olive Shells and wove them into the necklace with seed beads and larger glass beads. The necklaces were reasonably priced, authentic and meaningful. I would have never known the meaning and origin of the necklaces had I not asked.
The staff member at the gallery was quick to answer all my questions. She knew where the artists who displayed in the gallery lived and what tribal groups they were from. She could answer questions about authenticity and symbolism.
Northwest Native Expressions Art Gallery also has an online store. But if you can, stop there on your Olympic Peninsula travels and see the entire complex, enjoy the carvings and totems, and stop awhile and look out over beautiful Sequim Bay.
Northwest Native Expressions Art Gallery
1033 Old Blyn Hwy,
Sequim, WA 98382
Telephone: (360) 681-4640
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
Art Gallery Website