Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Coast Salish blankets, lovingly woven with hand dyed, home spun, and commercially produced yarns, adorn the walls of an international airport, museum, universities, and national broadcasting studio, and a mixed-use development project in Vancouver. All of these publicly accessible sites are located in unceded Coast Salish territory, upon which this city exists. These weavings present a conundrum. Simultaneously viewed as public art and symbols of cultural revitalization, their recognition as fine art has been limited, as most discourse about Coast Salish blankets has occurred outside of the discipline of art history. How then, have these weavings found their way into these places and spaces as public art? What is it that they are understood to represent to the traveler, the student, the tourist, the passerby, and the community or their origin that makes them symbols of welcome at public institutions throughout Vancouver? Many of these labour-intensive and one-of-a-kind textile adorn buildings that are foundational to the colonial structures and systems that have served to dispossess Indigenous peoples from their territories. This paper makes a critical analysis of the place of Coast Salish weaving in Vancouver. It will consider how this ancient form has come to counter this dispossession through its presence. With keen attention to the voices of the women who weave this ancient and local textile form, the paper suggests that Coast Salish weaving can be understood as a material manifestation of the practice of “everyday decolonization” within Coast Salish territory. This research is focused on the city of Vancouver, and will engage with local Coast Salish weavers, and their relationships as artists within this urban centre.