Members of the Tsartlip First Nation worked with students at the University of Victoria this past semester to teach and share the basic art form of traditional Coast Salish knitting.
Tsartlip First Nation knitters May Sam, Joni Olsen and Adam Olsen (owners of Salish Fusion Knitwear) and knitter and author Sylvia Olsen, taught students each week throughout the term and saw the class through completing a project along with the class’ professor, Dr. Andrea Walsh.
“Some of the students knew how to knit already and some didn’t so we started slow and had them knit a basic square,” explained Adam.
“Once they were complete, we were able to put them together in a big blanket.”
The class’ blanket will be raffled and proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Tsartlip First Nation for a new stove in their longhouse.
The class also included a world survey of art studies by anthropologists.
“It was really interesting because we got to combine the academics of writing a paper and doing classroom work with getting to do the knitting which was hands-on,” said one of the class members, Sarah Leckie.
As part of the Salish Artist in Residence program at the university, the Tsartlip knitters also created a traditional sweater, boots, hat and bag as well as a couture outfit.
The creations will be placed on permanent exhibition at the school in the Cornett building.
“Hopefully the students learned a little more about Coast Salish traditions,” said Adam.
The Coast Salish artist in residence program at the University of Victoria is supported by Coast Salish art enthusiasts George and Christiane Smyth, who also have several of their personal collection pieces in UVic’s First Peoples House.