SUSAN A. POINT O.C., DFA., RCA., D.Litt. (1952–) is a descendant of the Musqueam people; she is the daughter of Edna Grant and Anthony Point.
Susan inherited the values of her culture and traditions of her people by her mother Edna– who learned by her mother, Mary Charlie-Grant
“I continue trying to push myself one step beyond my goals, or one step in a new direction so often. There is always another stride to make. My art is never really finished; there is just a point where I have to stop myself.
This applies to my whole life; therefore my artwork is evolving all of the time. New situations, new experiences have always played fundamental roles in my art, an example is my sometimes-playful use of colour after a tropical retreat and my embraced understanding of my ancestral visual language.
Thirty years ago I was re-introducing ancestral artefacts; I am now pushing my artistic boundaries in every contemporary sense. While, the most valued part of my artwork remains the same, my mark, and I leave this with every brushstroke, every- whittle of wood, every line that I leave, I insist is just the way I meant it. That is my signature.
From the time when I pulled silkscreens on my kitchen table, I have stayed the course because my family helps me. All of my children are artists, and my grandchildren are too.
I am obliged to lead them by example– Coast Salish art has forever been a way to honour and remember significant details of our social lives. My hope is that my children remember to tell not only our cultural accounts, but also their own stories as well.”
Susan’s distinct style has stimulated a movement in Coast Salish art. She draws inspiration from the stories of her ancestors and commences the use of non-traditional materials and techniques, therefore inspiring a whole new generation of artists.
Susan is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has been presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canada.
She has been recognized with: an Indspire Achievement Award, a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, a B.C. Creative Achievement Award, appointed lifetime member to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, was selected to the International Women’s Forum, was listed one of B.C’s 100 most influential women, and was one of Vancouver’s 2012 Remarkable Women. Susan has Honorary Doctorates from: the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, University of B.C. and Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
The Coast Salish native peoples are indigenous to the lower mainland of Vancouver and southern tip of Vancouver Island, B.C. extending to the northern Washington State in the U.S.
Although there are many First Nation tribes in B.C., 30+ years ago the Coast Salish were the least familiar to the general public, and their art was almost completely unknown subject to early settlement by Europeans. Historically, the Coast Salish were one of the most numerous indigenous groups and their art was unique and powerful both in subject and form. Not only did they carve large-scale houseposts adorning their longhouses (which were mainly used for structural purposes to hold up the crossbeams for the roofs of the longhouses) but they also carved figures and delicate engravings that embellished ritual implements, utilitarian tools (e.g. spindle whorls) and personal ornaments including textiles and blankets that were considered items of wealth that were worn on ceremonial occasions. Today, the Coast Salish territory is the most heavily populated part of the province and their unique art form has again flourished.
Selisia, a relation of Susan- using a traditional spindle whorl (above).
Originally, Coast Salish territorial lands were abundant with animals, birds, berries and greens. Fish, including the salmon and sturgeon (among other species) were an important part of their livelihood … that was traded for foods and raw materials between other First Nation communities. All this was done by the use of dugout cedar canoes to cross the various waterways. With great emphasis on fishing, the Coast Salish had a greater number and variety of fishing devices than any other Northwest Coast tribe. These were adapted to special features of the local environment and its resources.
The Coast Salish peoples are a cultural unit comprised of people who speak many different languages (hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, Straits Salish, Squamish, Nooksack, Chinook, to name a few) and lied in a region with congenial climate and rich natural resources. Retention of their distinct languages was consistent with a pattern of great linguistic diversity among the Coast Salish as a whole, a diversity that attests to lengthy and relatively stable occupation of their territory. Comparative linguistics suggests the ancient homeland of the Salish peoples to have been the territory we now associate with the Central Coast Salish, and from archaeological data a picture is emerging of unbroken settlement spanning many thousand of years.
As per other Northwest Coast First Nations, the Coast Salish emphasized wealth and social status … distinguishing upper class or highborn people from lower class, ordinary people. Regardless of such inequality or class system, there was no office of authority … there were no formal chiefs or tribal governments … leaders were chosen from each extended family who were the most capable and esteemed members within each family.
Maintaining respect and status in the eyes of the community and expressing loyalty and support for one’s family were major values which gave order and stability to daily life … the centre of an economic system which encouraged hard work and production of wealth.