Artists add tribal flavor to fund-raising dinner

LITTLE BOSTON — Members of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe are using what they know today to help further the cultural resources of their future generations.

Tribal and non-tribal artists, who specialize in Northwest art, have been busy the past several months putting together pieces for the tribe’s dinner and art auction. The event is set to take place on Dec. 7.

Proceeds from the auction will be used to fund the House of Knowledge project — an education complex that will include a career and education center, an elders center, an expanded Little Boston Library and a longhouse.

As the date of the auction comes closer, artists have been turning in all sorts of ornate and detailed works.

Jake Jones, a master carver with the tribe, created a Hamatsa Mask — a 3-foot long bird head mask with a moveable jaw used in dance ceremonies. The top of the head is lined with cedar rope while strips of Alaskan White cedar bark and red cedar bark hang from the bottom of the mask.

Jones was inspired by master artist and woodcarver Willie Seaweed and by the masks worn by the dancers he saw when he was visiting Blake Island.

“I went with the elders to Blake Island and saw the (Hamatsa) masks when they were dancing with it,” Jones said. “It’s a neat dance. When dancing with (the mask), that’s what inspired me to do it for the art auction.”

Joe Ives, another master carver with the tribe, created a portrait mask of a young man. Ives used horsetail for the mask’s hair and beeswax to soften the look of the rich red, blue and black painted face.

The mask is of a Makah native, he said.

It was inspired by the Neah Bay tribe that would come to the Port Gamble S’Klallam’s reservation in search of women, according to the story he heard from his grandmother.

“The Makahs would come steal our womenfolk,” Ives said, noting that the Port Gamble S’Klallam members could hear them coming due to the Makah’s singing and music.

This mask is the face of one of the men who was caught, Ives explained, so it’s not a warrior mask, despite its wild look.

A group of women elders contributed a button blanket with the pattern of the tribe’s official symbol, the killer whale. The five women spent four hours every day in October to complete the task, said Sue Hama, the group’s coordinator.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity and (are) grateful for the 30 pieces in so far,” said associate director of the tribe Lori Mattson, adding the group is expecting to have double that number of works for the auction.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Marie Hebert, the culture resource director and special events coordinator. “The work is just beautiful. We really appreciate it, all the support from the artists.”

The semi-formal dinner, live and silent auction and David Boxley Dancers performance will be held Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Burke Museum in Seattle. Tickets are $75 each. To RSVP or for more information, call Mattson or Hebert at (360) 297-2646.

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