Creating Nlaka’pamux Bone Tools and Sharing Research

I haven't been keeping up on posting updates here cause I have been pushing to much attention to my Instagram and Facebook, however I am thinking I will be moving away from these platforms in the future and will be updating here instead.

The year 2020 was a exciting and challenging year, in the first few months of the year I was honoured to continue my research into the construction of Nlaka’pamux bone tools with a trip to Hawaii. On this trip I was honoured to be hosted by Keone Nunes at his home, upon arrival I was greeted by Dave Gucela a student of Lane Wilcken who has been studying under Keone for a few years. It was nice to sit and eat with Dave, sharing story and exploring our collective passion for the revival and resurgence of our ancestral tattooing practices. I am also thankful to Kamali’ikupono Hanohano for hosting me the first night I was in Waianae. Spending my first night on the beach and waking up to the crash of the waves on the shore was a much needed rest from the long travel from Nova Scotia, were we still had snow in February.

After a restful evening I spent the next day with Lane Wilcken and Natalia Roxas, I was stoked to see Lane deliver a presentation at a community event and share food and laughs with these two.

I arrived late at Keone’s on my second day in Hawaii and spent my remaining time visiting, sharing food, and learning what Keone was willing to share with me about the manufacture of bone tools. I spent time awkwardly stretching for Keone for a few Kakau he did while I was visiting, I have so much respect for Keone and his students who sit cross legged doing the work. I was also absolutely amazed at how perfectly suited the Hawaiian tools are for the work that they do, the speed and precision comes equally from the skill of the practitioner but also the brilliance of the ancestors who originally crafted the first tools. I was impressed once again by Keone’s unwavering commitment to the cultural protocols and spirit of Kakau as shared with him by his Kapuna (elders).

You can't see it this picture but my lags shortly after this shot straight out to the side, and eventually feel asleep.

I am thankful for the lessons shared with me by Keone, Kamali’li, Lane and Dave while I was visiting in Hawaii, and the knowledge shared with me by Aaron Deter-Wolf and Grant Keddie during the preliminary stages of this research. I spent the remaining days working in Keone’s workshop fashioning bone skin stitch needles.

Before I left Waianae I was honoured to be asked by Keone to use the first Nlaka’pamux bone skin stitch needle to gift him an earthline. Such a humbling, exciting and journey affirming moment.

Since that time I have been taking the time that has been granted me through the lockdowns, and shutdowns of life outside my own home due to COVID-19 to craft many needles and perfect the creation of these tools.

This upcoming weekend I will be sharing the knowledge I have gained over the past year with a group of past participants, mentors and friends of the Earthline Tattoo Training Residency. This will be via a virtual bone tool workshop, I will be sharing how to craft a bone skin stitch needle with those who will be attending. Sorry this workshop is full and we will not be accepting any new attendees.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our contemporary lives we forget to look back and reflect on the journey we have taken, the places we have visited and the people who make this journey full. I am thankful for all of those mentioned in this post, however I am especially grateful for my wife Jayne, for journeying with me and being patient as I travel and do this work.

I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts

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