This Summer, youth connected to Coast Salish artistry through a fun mural project led by NIȽ TU,O Cultural Workers.

(Shown above, NIȽ TU,O’s completed Culture Camp Mural)

One of the many ways NIȽ TU,O serves and empowers Coast Salish youth is by hosting ongoing Culture Camps for youth in NIȽ TU,O’s care. The camps provide an opportunity to immerse participating youth in Coast Salish community, culture, and language.

The 2023 camp was particularly special. Not only did participants get to take part in outdoor activities that helped them maintain connections with plant and animal relatives, such as harvesting blackberries and exploring the forest, but they also got to show off their creativity through a unique endeavor led by Elders Kathy and Doug LaFortune: a mural project created and driven by the youth themselves!

Though Kathy and Doug led the project, they simply supported the camp youth, taking direction, answering questions, and supporting the youth to take initiative. The young artists painted the mural themselves, choosing the subjects, colors, and style. This stunning piece allowed the youth participants an opportunity to deeply connect with Coast Salish culture while showcasing their creativity, artistic talents, and ability to work as a team.

In Doug and Kathy’s words, “it’s all done under their jurisdiction, under their vision of what they’d like to see.” Doug and Kathy are happy to see the youth leading the way, explaining “we really want to allow them to find who they are, find their art, and express themselves in a good way.”

Using a vibrant palette of colors atop a blue background depicting the sky and the sea, the mural includes a variety of animal relatives with particular importance in Coast Salish culture. Animals painted include an orca, a raven, a heron, a starfish, clams, an octopus, a salmon, and a gray wolf. The animals are looked over by a shining sun in the top right corner, and the mural is “signed” by the handprints of the artists who made it. The project was a joyful way to connect with Coast Salish artistry, as well as improve the aesthetic of the Cultural Building, where the mural was painted.

The completion of the mural by talented youth is more than just a testament to a successful, fun-filled summer camp; It is an opportunity to recognize the important role of art as stories and traditions are shared with the next generation. For that reason, the mural’s reveal was a moment of pride and joy for Kathy and Doug, the youths, and the community in general.

NIȽ TU,O is grateful to the LaFortune’s for supporting the next generation to embrace and share their identity through art, and plans to continue facilitating creative opportunities for Coast Salish youth to connect with Coast Salish artistry.

Interested in learning more about the mural? Check us out on TikTok

To stay up to date on this story and others, please subscribe to our newsletter.