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Okanagan Arts

Culture and Community


An Ongoing Series of Lectures and Presentations that Celebrate the Creative Okanagan

Okanagan Institute
Thursday Express
5pm Thursdays
at the Bohemian Café

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and information.


Arts Council of the Central Okanagan
Arts Council of the
Central Okanagan

100-1690 Water Street
Kelowna BC Canada V1Y 8T8
Email: Click Here.
Elke Lange, Executive Director
Telephone: 250.861-4123

Produced in association with the
Okanagan Institute


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Okanagan Arts: Summer 2008

Dorothy Tinning: A Tribute to Smoker Marchand

The sculptor, Virgil "Smoker" Marchand, was given his Indian name "Spa Poole" which means smokey, or smoke in his language, by his grandmother. Smoker grew up in the Colville Eastside Reservation in Omak, Washington, and went to elementary school at St. Mary's Mission. He ran away five times. It was Smoker's brother that encouraged him to pursue his art. Eventually, Smoker attended The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The immersion in this outstanding art school brought out something special in Smoker that he never knew was there. Smoker graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1971. However, today, Smoker says he uses techniques that were basically self-taught. I am very appreciative of Smoker Marchand himself, who took the time to share his observations on his art and his life with me through interviews, emails and phone calls. Since he was raised by his grandmother in his early years, he learned the language and the history of his people. Each sculpture incorporates a rare beauty, a balance, and an exquisite unique form. Smoker speaks highly of Chief Clarence Louie's contributions in providing a rich heritage through art, both for his people, and for the public at large.

Smoker Marchand was commissioned by Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band to create impressive metal sculptures to honor the Okanagan native history. It is not surprising that these sculptures have attracted international attention, as they evoke the history of the Okanagan native people, and their development of a rich tradition of being connected to the land. These powerful sculptures reflect the changing light and cycle of the seasons, in the surrounding Okanagan grasslands of sage, and antelope brush.

The Okanagan Valley is my home, and on a day trip from Penticton to the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre, I vividly remember the first time I saw the sculpture referred to as The Chief. I found tremendous inspiration in this sculpture that represented the relationship and connection between man and nature. As I excitedly began to paint this powerful work of art, I met different people in the area that told me of other sculptures located at the Inkameep Canyon Desert Golf Course in Oliver, The Visitor Centre in Osoyoos, the School and Health Clinic, and so began my spiritual liaison between myself and the mysteries of Okanagan native life. The theme always returned to the sacred aboriginal beliefs about the deep respect for nature and the environment. The painting of The Okanagan Native Hunter gave credence to how the surrounding area of the Okanagan Lake country used to be the hunting grounds, where deer, elk, and sheep were abundant. Caribou

A Tribute to Smoker Marchand
Acrylic on Canvas, 22 x 28
In the private collection of Okanagan College, Penticton Campus library
This acrylic on canvas painting entitled, A Tribute to Smoker Marchand, is thefirst painting from myspecial series of art work honouring, Virgil "Smoker" Marchand, an Okanagan native sculptor. I was particularly inspired by the striking sculpture, asyou almost feel the dramatic"life force" of the elements passing through the raised arms of The Chief astride his horse, making a connection to the land.

The Three Unity Riders

Acrylic on Canvas, 18" x 36"

One of the more recent Unity Rides was organized by Chief Joseph Bighead, of the Cree First Nation. The riders stopped at First Nations communities along the way, including a stay at Joey Pierre's ranch.

The Salmon Chief

Acrylic on Canvas, 22" x 28"

Original in the private collection of Chief Clarence Louie

The Okanagan Nation Alliance recently relaeased 800,00 sockeye salmon into the Okanagan River Channel under a reintroduction program. "Long ago, from the Pacific Ocean, salmon began their long journey home to the Okanagan valley, swimming nearly 1,200 km before reaching spawining areas in the Okanagan Basin. Salmon was a primary source for the Okanagan people. Beginning in late summer, as the salmon returned to spawn in the Okanagan River, large fishing camps were set up at Okangan Falls as it is known today. The Okanagan people marked the beginning of the fishing season with the First Salmon Ceremony. Led by the Salmon Chief, they honoured the salmon, and gave thanks for its abundance. The Salmon Chief distributed fish to all members of the community, and only enough salmon were harvested to last until the following year." ­ Okanagan Nation Alliance, Okanagan Salmon, Preserving & Enhancing Our Waterways

were plentiful in the hills to the east, and a few moose where to be had. The weapons employed in the pursuit of game were chiefly bows and arrows for shooting, and knives for stabbing wounded animals, and for cutting up the quarry. Arrow heads were generally of flaked stone, but some were of bone, both notched and unnotched." ­ James A. Teit,
The Okanogan Indians, in Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateau, Bureau of American Ethnology, 45th Annual Report, V.2 1927-8, P. 213

Yet behind this image of the powerful hunter slaying a real animal, there was always the sacred ritual of thanking the spirit of the animal for its life. If we listen respectfully the Okanagan elders of today have wisdom and stories to share about their history, and they are willing to be our teachers. I hope that my interpretation of the sculptor's work reflects the deeper beliefs of the Okangan Native people's respect and reliance on all living things, anchored in their relationship with their natural surroundings. It is my hope that my paintings will be rich in human interest, and raise insights of how the Okanagan people lived on the land, but were connected spiritually to the universe.

This was the starting point for a very personal expression of art for me. I typically begin by doing a small sketch in preparation for the larger painting. I use these sketches to establish the center of interest, and then draw the image

The Unity Rider

Acrylic on Canvas, 22" x 28"

The Unity Rides were journeys led by a Chief and spiritual leaders that united the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations. The riders travelled hundreds of miles by horse through different provinces and states during difficult weather conditions, and stopped at First Nations communities along the way, including those in the Okanagan Similkameen area. An elder with the Penticton Indian Band, Joey Pierre states that, "Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 16th generation Pipe Keeper care owner for the native people, decided to unite the people for the good of all mankind to work for change. The Unity Ride was a vision, a wake-up call, and a movement to unite the people, to let them know that what we do today affects the seventh generation." -- Excerpt from a taped interview, January 11, 2008
This Child - Seventh Generation

Acrylic on Canvas, 22" x 28"

A newborn is held up to the elements to be blessed by the Great Creator. This Child represents the traditional belief of the Okanagan nativeteachings, that what is taught to a child in his or her lifetime will be passed on for the next seven generations. The human and their reliance on the salmon,represents the delicate balanceof harvesting only enough salmon for each family.
very lightly on the canvas. I set up the main focal point of the sculpture against the Okanagan landscape, and do a lot of layering of paint, working from light to dark. I work outdoors in the area, and from reference photos I have taken. My canvases all include tones of an earth pigment usually based on burnt sienna.

These ten original paintings became a spiritually based body of work for me. "The Chief" sculpture, now a painting with the title A Tribute to Smoker Marchand show the outstretched hands of the Chief, raised towards the sky, as symbolic of man's yearning for a spiritual connection, and an infinite search for the meaning of life. I believe that, "One is suddenly aware of the life giving force of the Great Spirit flowing through those hands." I hope my paintings convey some aspect of the North American Aboriginal belief that every living thing has a powerful spirit of its own, and is connected to and a part of the universe. I also felt this connection very deeply, when I was painting, This Child ­ Seventh Generation and The Unity Rider.

If we are thoughtful, if we take the time when we are in this serene environment, all of these sculptures, and in turn
I hope my paintings of these sculptures, will take on a significance, and a glimpse of the healing beauty of nature as a release from our hectic day to day lives. These sculptures really work, because they also increase the understanding, and bridge cultural differences, as they convey the history of the survival, sustenance, and sustainability of the Okanagan native people that have lived in this area for thousands of years. I often think of an excerpt from a speech written in 1854 attributed to Chief Seattle, Salishan Nation, when I am painting,

"This we know, the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it." ­ Calvin Helin, Dances with Dependency, Orca Spirit Publishing C. 2006 Page 77.

My goal is to keep developing as an artist. I feel fortunate in that painting is challenging and rewarding every day. Through my work it is my intention to bring an appreciation of the beauty of nature, and the spirituality of the Okanagan native people to life. For more information see the website dorothytinning.com

Wild Blue Yonder at Thursday Express