While engaged in my research at the Nicola Valley Museum and Archive I searched through many drawers filed with photographs of Indigenous peoples, many of them taken by the anthropologist James Teit. I seen many faces and looked at many examples of our material culture in the form of clothing and baskets. As I looked at the faces of the people who have lived in my territory, and material objects which made their lives possible, a sense of pride began to grow.
When I began this journey in January of 2011 I had a small sense of who I was as an Indigenous person, I had no sense of who I was as an Nlaka’pamux person. I believe the creator put the passion for my peoples tattooing into my heart to help me find myself. After I have found myself, I will use the tools and gifts i have as a researcher, tattoo artist and academic to help other Indigenous and Nlaka’pamux people find themselves.
As I looked through the boxes and boxes of photos I began to see myself in the faces of the people, I began to feel connected and blessed to be Nlaka’pamux.
Here are some photos of me in the Museum in Merritt.
Some of the greatest blessings in my research have been part of my research methodology, which is positioning of myself as a researcher, it is a fundamental Indigenous research methodology which focuses attention on the researcher and grounds the research in pure subjectivity. This is important in Indigenous studies because of the history which academia has had when it comes to research among Indigenous peoples, many examples abound including salvage anthropology. This is methodology is what I refer to as me-search, in positioning myself firmly in my research I also allow those who I interact with during my research to see why i am doing what I am doing. It also allows anyone interested to see what and why this is important to me, especially elders and community members, this is also important considering the legacy of recording facts, stories and cultural life-ways in books, publishing them and then moving on which has been the norm in the past.
My passion for this project has been always at the heart of it important to me because tattooing is a way for me to help me identify with my Indigenous, Nlaka’pamux culture. Also the practice of and applying of traditional tattoos to my skin and the skin of my people helps to anchor us in the places and territory which is ours. The symbols are ones which our ancestors thought so important to share with us, or are the fruits of their creative artistic expression. We give these images and symbols new life by inscribing them on our bodies. Whether the new tradition of Nlaka’pamux tattoos uses the material culture of pictographs, basketry, or traditional tattoo motifs it is being revived to help anchor us in this modern world.
The main reason to use positioning in my research is that the only thing I am an expert at is my experience, and that is what I share as I continue on this amazing journey.