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Salmon Dance

Salmon Dance

Friends -

This is a special painting for several reasons.  First and foremost, it is a gift to Joanne Kittel who made my stay at Cape Perpetua an extraordinary one in so many ways.  She also edited this narrative.

'Salmon Dance' is my interpretation of an existing, imaginative, beautiful sculpture created by artist, Sy Meadows.  Below is how I translate the story that this sculpture is telling:

First, it is important to know that the coming of a healthy salmon run has been important in the Pacific Northwest for centuries.  It remains an urgent call to us all now to protect the fragile ecosystem we live in, especially on the coast where life begins.  To Native Peoples, in the past to the present, the coming of salmon represents the most bountiful gift from the spirits.  They were being provided with fresh meat and a refreshing departure from dried meats and berries.  It was and is an annual occurrence for which gratitude is expressed by ceremony and dance composed of different local variations.

Before the Euro-Americans inhabited this area and their diseases killed all the Native People of Yachats and Cape Perpetua, grizzly bears predominated. Bears, often symbolic of Native Peoples share this joy of a new salmon run and must surely have their own dance of excitement.  It is hard to understand how a bear must feel during these events, but I imagine that their entire world becomes one of complete salmon obsession.  They must feel totally surrounded by the smells of fish, sounds of their splashing, and sights of them leaping through the rushing waters, as well as the glorious pleasure of bellies, now full.   Hence, the Alsi People, who called this area their home for thousands of years, had a myth story handed down for many generations: When Salmon Come, Bears Dance. (Leo Frachtenberg, Alsea Myths and Texts, 1920.) It must be a dance of ecstasy.

This statue is located on the Oregon Coast trail between Yachats and Cape Perpetua.  Walk the Amanda Trail.  You will surely see the bears and with the right amount of imagination, you may even see the salmon.  You will also have an opportunity to breathe in the beauty of the coastal forest and make it part of yourself.  If you are quiet enough within yourself, you will feel the spirits move within you as well.

The Bears (in painting and sculpture) also commemorate Norman Kittel, a special individual who was important and influential in the creation of the Amanda Trail.

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