Designed by Louie Gong (Nooksack), this eagle merges influences from Coast Salish art and Americana tattoo style. By drawing from traditional tattoo, this eagle references the same symbolism as the American eagle - strength, leadership and freedom. However, by merging it with Coast Salish art, Louie intends to skew the eagle's meaning toward indigenous strength, leadership and freedom. In doing this, the design symbolizes the much needed update to the "American dream."
From first contact, the indigenous people of North America have had a complicated relationship with Western religion. During the boarding school era of colonization (roughly mid-1800s to the 1970s), a high percentage of Native people were forcibly taken from their homes and raised in church-run, government-sanctioned boarding schools. The purpose of these schools wasn’t so much education, as it was “Kill the Indian, save the man” -- the systematic destruction of Native language, traditions, and family unit.
My Grandma, as was very typical of her generation, was taken from her home when she was a child and raised by nuns and priests in a Catholic boarding school far away. Every type of abuse you might imagine, she experienced. Although my Grandma spent 10 years in the boarding school, she never really learned to read and write. Yet until she passed away in 2002, she kept a rosary by her bed and a cross at each entrance of the house.
These pieces are meant to generate dialogue around the betrayal of trust between Indigenous communities and the churches responsible for their welfare and “development”. Is this a predator-prey relationship, or is there genuine care for the lamb -- as is typically portrayed in religious imagery?