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My name is Yaandakin Yeil, English name Autumn Shotridge, daughter of Sue and Israel Shotridge, granddaughter of Esther Shea and Milton Jackson. I am a mother of 2, entrepreneur, studying for my Bachelors in Business Management, and Assistant Manager to co-owner of Shotridge Studios and Raven’s Nest on Vashon Island, Sue Shotridge. I have a lot of pride for my culture and acknowledge that I am still learning and growing but would like to share my knowledge of my culture and fathers art with you all. The blogs I will be writing will be in direct connection to the artist and how his designs reflect his pride and connection to our past, present and future and how we can make a difference in our communities through art and our ability to be resilient today.
The current pandemic we are in has unintentionally surfaced more than we had ever expected it would. We have experienced shifts in our energy all around us, whether it’s a shift in your home, relationships, within ourselves, or in our workplace. There is proof in the strength we have within ourselves to bounce back from whatever it is that surfaces in our lives. I’d like to bring the word, ‘Resilience’ some attention with you all in relation to our cultures and the connection to our ‘Northwest Indigenous Resilience’ print. As you read my thoughts on this topic, I encourage you to think about ‘How are you resilient and ways to build resilience within yourself?
For me, as an indigenous person of Southeast Alaska, who grew up outside of the state; the strongest connection to my cultural identity was through our art. Growing up on Vashon Island in Washington State from the age of 5, moving away from my roots and culture; I have to admit, my culture was fading within me. I began to feel embarrassed, just because it was different from what my peers knew. I thought they wouldn’t understand and I didnt have the confidence in my own knowledge to educate my peers. I was starting to be more comfortable with my western ways of life and started feeling disconnected. I begged my parents to send me to Chief Sealth High School, a 20 minute ferry ride from Vashon; where I wouldn't feel like I stuck out so much as a target. Although I didn’t win that battle, I did come to find and understand the light behind my parents' decisions in keeping me where I was here on Vashon. I moved up to Alaska after graduating high school and spent a few seasonal summers in Ketchikan selling alaskan made art at various shops and galleries. It wasn’t until I was given my first seal pelt after my eldest daughter Aria (whom is current’y 8) to really bind my connection with my culture. Naturally, being a daughter of two artists, I eventually became an artist as well, working with sealskin and creating unique jewelry and accessories out of the skin. It not only gave me a healthy outlet, brought a great amount of pride for my culture and where I come from, but also gave me an opportunity and freedom to stay home with my daughters and help raise them.
The ‘Northwest Indigenous Resilience’ art print was created during the beginning of the pandemic. The image depicts the prominent clan figures of the Raven and Eagle, the two main moieties (kinship in the indigenous society) of the Tlingit tribe that represents the two opposites showing their inner strength and balance in the face of adversity. The Tlingit family dynamics are unlike the traditional American culture and family dynamics, women have been the dominant family members of the household. One becomes a member of a moiety from birth, making the Tlingit culture a matrilineal society; which means the child belongs to whichever group their mother was born into as well, giving our future generations their identity.
The clan and house to which you belong serves as an identifier within the tribe. When a member of a clan is ready to marry, they are to marry into a different, or opposite moiety to their own. In the Tlingit culture, you are either of the Eagle, Raven or Killer Whale moiety. Although one is no longer ostracized if they do not marry someone who is of their opposite or different to their moiety, it is still frowned upon. Nowadays, our male tribal members are marrying outside their own tribe, leaving our children without identities. Traditionally for our children without identities, the mother is adopted into the opposite clan of the fathers, in order for their children to carry on their traditions.
In the design you can see the ‘Lovebirds’ are inside the clan house. The symbol of the Lovebirds represents the unity between Eagle and Raven as one. When you think of your home life and the changes you have been through during this pandemic, I would like you all to take a moment and congratulate yourself for getting this far. Congratulate yourself for all you have accomplished internally and externally in your home, with yourself, with your significant other, children, and other family members that may be in your circle who visit your home. Acknowledge the growth you have made, or haven’t made. I encourage you all to be gentle with yourself and know that you are not alone, and to find someone who will be honest with you, who wants you to grow and wants you to keep moving forward. We are all in this together, mental health is community health, it all starts with us as individuals to heal and have RESILIENCE.
Stay tuned for more information on this design and what it represents for our past, present and future.
Gunalcheesh ho ho,
Written by: Autumn Shotridge