Hexsa’a̱m: To Be Here Always

“We are salmon people,” Master Artist Sara Siestreem said of her Hanis Coos tribe in a November talk at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. “We mean that to say we are related to the salmon.” “I’ve got an artistic practice that has three parts…My first language in my work is painting. The second part of my work is I’m a teacher.”

Born in 1976, Sara Siestreem hails from the Umpqua River Valley in Southwest Oregon. Master Artists, Siestreem explains, have to write one line in history that reflects their voice, that’s “a new statement in the cannister.” They are also responsible for training the next generation of artists. “The third part for me is institutional reform. So, museums, schools, different institutions hire me to come and help them update how they talk about indigenous art to the mainstream.”

When Siestreem was at an induction ceremony for a raven’s tail robe, she realized that she wanted to start learning traditional cultural weaving techniques from the Elders. She now runs a weaving program for her tribe. Supported by a number of grants, she studies with her mentors and goes with them into museums so they can reverse-engineer how the Coos baskets were originally made.

With her painting, Siestreem said: ‘my ambition was that it would be good for my people if, when they were young coming into the museum, they could see Coos on the wall.” Doing so with weaving could be even more powerful.

Two of Siestreem’s pieces are included in Hexsa’a̱m: To Be Here Always, the exhibit just opened at the Belkin Gallery.

Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos)
aretha franklin
reigns supreme

+ Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos)
up all night. 2018

Hexsa’a̱m: To Be Here Always, we read, ‘challenges the western concept that the power of art and culture are limited to the symbolic or metaphoric, and that the practices of First Peoples are simply part of a past heritage.’

As participating artist Marianne Nicholson says: “We must not seek to erase the influence of globalizing Western culture, but master its forces selectively, as part of a wider Canadian and global community, for the health of the land and the culture it supports. The embodied practice of ceremonial knowledge relates to artistic experience – not in the aesthetic sense, but in the performative: through gestures that consolidate and enhance knowledge for positive change.”

Other pieces you’ll see are:

Marianne Nicolson (‘Tayagila’ogwa)
La’am ‘lawisuxw Yaxuxsan’s ‘Nalax – Then the Deluge of Our World Came 2017


Nabidu Taylor (Musgamakw, Dzawada̱’enuxw)
Untitled 2018

Lindsey Willie (Dzawada̱’enuxw)
A’axsila (to take care of). 2018

Marianne Nicolson (‘Tayagila’ogwa)
The Woman on the Flats. 2018

Detail from
Siku Allooloo (Inuk/Haitian Taino)
Akia. 2018

Diane Roberts
Excerpt: Six Questions. 2018

William Wasden Jr. (Kwakwa̱ka’wakw)
The Kingcome Inlet Wolves. 2018
Lamilas (dance curtain)

Unknown (Kwakwa̱ka’wakw, Dzawada̱’enuxw)
Feast Dish Lid. Unknown Date


From Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse to Churro Balls


Tilar J. Mazzeo

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton