Coast Salish wool weaving is the traditional style of the Pacific Northwest Indigenous Peoples, extending from Bute Inlet in British Columbia to the Columbia River in Oregon. Woven regalia and other traditional items are still highly sought after for ceremonies and celebrations. Skilled Salish textile weavers are held in high esteem as culture bearers for their expertise in gathering and processing materials as well as their exquisite artistic abilities. The most coveted material is the wool of mountain goats, admired for their virtuosity of spirit and resilience, bestowing spiritual strength to overcome hardship onto the receiver of such items. Other materials include dog wool which is believed to imbue love, and various plants that inspire generosity. Recently, Coast Salish wool weaving has undergone a resounding renaissance as younger generations yearn to learn and practice ancestral ways of being.
Master Artist: Dr. Susan Pavel
Dr. Susan Pavel first learned the Coast Salish wool weaving tradition on the Skokomish Indian Reservation from Master weaver Bruce Miller during the summer of 1996 when he was one of only three practicing weavers. After years of producing ceremonial blankets for Skokomish elders, her master teacher invited her to teach weaving classes and carry the tradition, saying “It is through teaching that we truly honor the spirit.” The year 2016 marked twenty years of Coast Salish wool weaving and honoring the Weaver’s Spirit Power for Dr. Pavel. She is now approached by promising weavers seeking apprentices while also presenting weaving demonstrations at various prestigious venues.
“Overcoming hardship, love, generosity, and many more teachings are still very important to Coast Salish peoples, it is the job of culture bearers […] to keep these teachings alive by sharing the knowledge and skills with the next generation who will pass on these time-honored traditions to future generations.”
Apprentice: Tahnee Miller (Skokomish)
Tahnee currently works at the Skokomish Community Center whose mission is to build healthier families and a stronger community through various programs and events. After taking her first weaving class with Dr. Pavel, Tahnee knew she had to continue cultivating this passion. As an advanced beginner, Tahnee hopes to learn different weaving techniques while also learning more about herself as a Native American woman. Tahnee plans to continue the Coast Salish wool weaving tradition not only with her own community, but with anyone else who wants to learn.
“I am passionate about learning to Coast Salish weave because it is my tradition. It is part of me.”
Featured image: Susan Pavel weaving. The Artists’ Gallery.