Heather Johnson Jock

Tribal Enrollment Number: 215
Coast Salish art is an expression of Coast Salish culture, defined by our spirituality, our stories, our songs, our traditions, our language, our history and our environment. Our culture is our identity and wealth as a people and accordingly our elders are the most treasured aspect of both our past and our future.

I am inspired by the gifts of my elders. As a child some of my most vivid memories are spending time with my Great Uncle “Brick” Johnson while he carved totem poles, painted Salish designs or walked out on the sand bar to check the crab traps. I watched quietly and closely, for his way of teaching was by example. His example taught me that our culture was not just something to be learned and understood, but that it was a way of life, a way of life that we pass on.

In our peoples history there have been times when passing on our way of life has been difficult, or when something else has come along to takes its place. In my community, the tradition of spinning and weaving wool was one such part of our way of life. I have been told by elders in my Tribe and in my family, that my Great Grandma Lydia (Fulton) Dick was the community wool spinner. Grandma Lydia passed on before my time and until recently this part of our tradition had been asleep.

Today this tradition has been awakened. For seven years I have been an apprentice to Xwlemi (Lummi) elders Che top ie and Tsi li xw (Fran James and Bill James) in the Coast Salish tradition of spinning and weaving. It is a tradition of honor. Che top ie teaches that whatever is in the heart goes into the work. I continue this tradition, as a “stitch for Fran” goes into every weaving. Tsi li xw has taught me to keep reaching out for the next design, while encouraging me to follow my own intuitions. The gifts of Che top ie and Tsi li xw have helped me to recognize that spinning and weaving are inside me, they are part of me and now part of my way of life.

All of the respect I have for all of my teachers goes into each piece of art I create. My art is inspired by my teachers, my traditions, and my connections to the natural world. The blanket which I have woven for this exhibit represents these inspirations and is an honoring and adaptation of the tradition of Coast Salish blanket weaving. It was woven with designs that signify the mountains, valleys and rainfall of the Puget Sound Region.