Giclée Edition 99 Released June 2010
There are very few things that can compare to dancing in a traditional style. It gives you a profound rush to come out from behind the dance screen as the singers strike up an ancient song. The crack of the drum log blends effortlessly with the bass of the skin drum to guide your feet in orchestrated rhythm. Trancelike, your body carries out movements that have been done since the dawn of time.
Amongst the Kwakwaka’wakw people, the major dance order outside of our winter ceremonials is the Dłuwalaxa or Tła’sala. These dances have been primarily obtained through intermarriage with the northern tribes of the coast. Characteristic of the Tła’sala, or “peace dance,” is the Yaxwi’we’ headdress. It is a sublime manifestation of valuable items on the coast: a long white ermine train, intricately carved frontlet festooned with abalone shells and a crown of long sea lion whiskers. Gently placed in the top of the Yaxwi’we’ is a generous handful of eagle down. When danced, the Yaxwi’we’ releases its bounty to spread a peaceful blessing throughout the house.
One of my favourite names amongst the K’omoks people is Ḵa̱mxwalał. Translated, it means “Eagle Down Dancer.” I envision Ḵa̱mxwalał dancing on the beach in front of our K’omoks village. With graceful movement, the eagle down spirals up into the sky to spread peace throughout the territory.
Andy Everson was born in Comox, BC in 1972 and named Na̱gedzi after his grandfather, the late Chief Andy Frank of the K’ómoks First Nation. Andy has also had the honour of being seated with the ‘Na̱mg̱is T̓sit̓sa̱ł'walag̱a̱me' name of Ḵ̓wa̱mxa̱laga̱lis I'nis. Influenced heavily by his grandmother, he has always been driven to uphold the traditions of both the K’ómoks and Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw First Nations. In this regard, Andy has pursued avenues where he can sing traditional songs and perform ceremonial dances at potlatches and in a number of different dance groups, most notably the Le-La-La Dancers, the Gwa'wina Dancers and the K’umugwe Dancers.
Pursuing other areas of traditional culture has also led Andy to complete a Master’s degree in anthropology. Because the K’ómoks First Nation lies on the border between the larger Salish and Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw realms, his thesis focused on notions and expressions of contemporary Comox identity. His work in anthropology provided him with a background in linguistics which subsequently inspired him to create a company, Copper Canoe, Inc, that specialized in the creation of Aboriginal language media.
Andy feels that his artwork stands on par with these other accomplishments. Although he began drawing Northwest Coast art at an early age, Andy's first serious attempt wasn’t until 1990 when he started designing and painting chilkat-style blankets for use in potlatch dancing. From these early self-taught lessons, he has tried to follow in the footsteps of his Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw relatives in creating bold and unique representations that remain rooted in the age-old traditions of his ancestors. The ability to create and print most of his own work has allowed Andy to explore and express his ancestral artwork in a number of contemporary ways.