The Kootenay Gallery & West Kootenay Regional Arts Council present






Sheldon Louis & Csetkwe Fortier

June 15 – July 28

Opens June 15 at 7:00 pm

DetermiNation is a collaboration between two indigenous Okanagan artists, Sheldon Louis and Csetkwe Fortier. Louis creates bold, graphic imagery while Fortier paints minimalist images on linen.

The artists describe the show as “Genetic memories of origin guide two syilx artists to produce works about their inherent responsibilities to ensure the lifeblood of the salmon continues to flow. With bright colours & bold images, they express the determination of the salmon & their people.”

DetermiNation is particularly relevant at this time, given the cultural significance of the salmon both historically and currently, to local indigenous populations and with the re-negotiations of the Columbia River Treaty beginning soon.

Join us for the opening of the show at 7:00 pm on June 15. The exhibition continues until July 28.

Artists Statement

“The people were dying from starvation. The great Monster-deities of the warm-land South had built a mighty dam which closed the trail of the salmon coming up the (nt x ítk ) Columbia River. This caused the people to dance the prayer-dance day after day, night after night. They wanted to find out how to open the salmon trail so that their main source of food might come back to the rivers again, might reproduce in the mountain streams. Although they prayed and danced, none obtained power to break the dam.”     

Told by Long Thresa, (Tee-qualt)

Genetic memories of origin guide two syilx artists to produce works about their inherent responsibilities to ensure the lifeblood of the salmon continues to flow. While bringing awareness to the existing United States/Canada Columbia River Treaty’s lack of inclusion and consent from the Indigenous Peoples, Csetkwe and Sheldon’s bodies of work echo the frustrations and fears that the indigenous voice will go unheard for another 100 years. With bright colours and bold images, they express the determination of the salmon and squilxʷ peoples.

All life is intertwined.  N̓tyxtyx – chinook salmon are central to Csetkwe’s series as they are to Syilx way of life. N̓tyxtyx is chief of all life in the water, as well as the fall time season, and male energy. Focus, action and determination are all qualities represented through obvious and subtle symbolism throughout Csetkwe’s works. N̓tyxtyx struggle through the ever-cascading policy that allows further “development” of encroaching systems such as infrastructure, dams, pollution and global warming. Syilx struggle with the many streams of imposed policy and cohersed  litigation that obstructs our ability to live our lives as stewards and inter-dependants with the təmxʷulaxʷ (land), siʷɬkʷ (water), təmixʷ (all of creation). Specifically some tangible challenges are limited access to our food sources due to dams, hydro electric lines and the ever growing urbanization and commodification of our unceded and stolen lands, waters and life. The gifts of determination and resiliency N̓tyxtyx gives the Syilx people is represented through depiction of ceremony and the continuous act of honouring the salmon through generations. The focus and simplicity of Csetkwe’s work is accurate to her smilax roots as smilax people are known for being direct and efficient.

Beneath the calm waters of Lake Roosevelt lies one of the most important fishing sites on the upper Columbia…Kettle Falls, about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. For millennia squilxʷ peoples from far and wide would congregate at the fishing site to harvest N̓tyxtix (salmon) to build up food caches to sustain the peoples for the winter months. All this came to an end in 1941, with the completion of Grand Coulee Dam, located about 100 miles downstream. The dam, built without a passage for the fish, closed the upper Columbia and its tributaries to migrating salmon. One year prior in 1940 the Ceremony of Tears, would see tribes mourn their traditional practices and way of life that once strived for thousands of generations prior to first contact. Our captikʷl (traditional stories), tell of how the People were in need of food, they prayed and sang many songs but N̓tyxtix (King Salmon) did not appear in the waters. Senklip (Coyote) decided he would journey down river to investigate. It was told that there were Monsters who had trapped N̓tyxtix behind a large weir. Senklip in his trickster ways defeated the Monsters and broke free N̓tyxtix, so that they could be brought up river to the People. In this exhibition Sheldon is re-visioning the old stories and speaking of the need to understand the relevance of the squilxʷ perspective in today’s ever growing industrial complex. The figures that are present on the canvas are representations of the ancestors as well as the full circle that our salmon, people, and stories have made. We are again at a point where the two legged are faced with survival. The People Eaters of old have found their way to the surface and have claimed the water and land again. In the spirit of Senklip, the People have stepped forward to fight those who would create the barriers that stop N̓tyxtix (salmon) from returning to the people.