Despite the chill in the air, it was a good day for a Birds of Prey Club meeting. Everyone was in good spirits and happy to see each other once again.
Our activity for today was to make a Tsimshian Life Crest. The Tsimshian are a tribe that lived in the Pacific Northwest as long as 5,000 years ago. This tribe was organized as a clan society. There are four main
clans: Killer Whale, Raven, Wolf and Eagle (hence, the link to our Club). A child is born into its mother's clan and receives that clan's crest for life. Each clan has traits it is strong
in, which are represented by the clan's animal. For example, Eagle is known for peace, friendship, honesty and openness. There are also sub-clans within the clans. The inspiration for today's activity came from Traditional Native American Arts & Activities. We also used First Nations Art Projects and Activities again to help with some of the details in the artwork.
I wasn't sure how well I would be able to explain that the traits of the clan were symbolized in the traits of the clan's animal. And I didn't know how well I could explain that each child could simply choose to draw the animal that best represented him or her on the life crest. So, once the children were nearing the end of their snack, I pulled out a book off our bookshelf called I am Raven and started to read. It is a story of a chief who plans to build a new totem pole before he moves on to the world of his ancestors, and he needs to decide which animals will be depicted on the pole. As he travels through his day, various animals approach him with gifts and comment about how they must be his totem, because his strengths so much resemble their own. In the end, he finds his true totem. It also has wonderful illustrations using the same techniques I was hoping the group would try out today. I was amazed how quiet the group became as I read.
Once the book was done, I described the activity - painting a life crest onto a wooden board. There was a wee bit of chaos as the children grabbed books to learn about what different animals represent or symbolize. Once they settled on what they would draw, and whether they would do a dry run on paper or go straight to drawing on the wood, it got quiet again as everyone got to work. I don't think we've had such a quiet meeting!
After all that deliberation, we wound up with one Killer Whale, one Eagle, one Otter, one Hummingbird, and a mix of Owl, Eagle and Canada Goose. Most tried to make the paintings or drawings in the likeness of the artwork they saw in the books, which was so exciting to see!