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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
"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