Ceremonial Eagle Feather: Spotted Eagle

Artist’s Statement:

“Following in the footsteps and traditions of my Plains Cree and Blackfoot ancestors I would like to extend the ‘Give-away’ ceremony into the twenty-first century. Therefore nothing on this website is for sale… the artworks, music, e-books and essays are free to be viewed and downloaded for the pure enjoyment of our visitors.”

The ‘Give-away’

In a world so over-run and enslaved by the power of the almighty dollar, I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to do something special, radical and perhaps even outrageous with my life’s work’. To create a website that completely runs counter to the ‘western’ mindset of profit motive, greed, financial gain and crass materialism…a mindset where pretty-much everything can be ‘bought and sold’. What a delightful idea…just think…no need for credit cards, shopping carts, Pay Pals, shipping and handling charges, packaging, paperwork, taxes, etc.

The A.V.A. Renaissance Initiative and its ethos were inspired, in part, by my Aboriginal bloodline and an ancient set of principles and social ethics indelibly imprinted in cellular memory. What I am alluding to here is the time-honored fundamentals that underpinned the ‘Potlatch’ ceremony.

The Potlatch was an opulent ceremonial feast to celebrate an important event held by tribes of the Northwest Indians of North America including the Tlinqit, Tsimishian, Haida, Coast Salish and the Chinook people. A Potlatch was characterized by a ceremony in which the tribe’s wealth and possessions were given away. Many tribes, especially among the Plains Indians (my lineage), have traditionally practiced some form of Potlatch or Give-away ceremony, highlighted by the lavish distribution of goods and food to members of other clans, villages or tribes.

The concept of the Give-away custom is difficult to comprehend by those who do not share the culture and beliefs of the Native American Indians. The European system of values placed much emphasis on the acquisition and accumulation of material wealth therefore the early settlers found the Give-away custom impossible to understand. The very idea of giving away one’s wealth and possessions was a totally alien concept to them. The Potlatch and Give-away ceremonies were therefore outlawed by the Canadian Government in the 1880s and natives caught practicing the ceremony were liable to prison terms ranging from between 4-6 years.

The beliefs and customs of the Native American tribes who practiced the Potlatch ceremonies and rituals were based upon the fundamentals of egalitarianism, communal responsibility and the democratic inclinations of the tribes. This was characterized by social equality and a demonstration of the legitimacy of those elected as tribal leaders. Anyone elected to a leadership position was given the stewardship, rather than the ownership, of the tribe’s wealth. Those elected were also expected to give away that wealth so as not to be able to profit materially from their new position. The basic concept and ideals of the Potlatch prevented corruption in high places of trust and power.

“In traditional Northwest American Indigenous societies the poorest man
in the village (in terms of material wealth) was always the Chief”

As a way of honoring my ancient ancestors I would like to extend this custom into the twenty-first century by giving away the artwork, the music and the writings contained within this website…for free. I encourage visitors to download the photo images, the music and the eBooks and essays for their own personal enjoyment.

I personally do not feel that I ‘own’ any of the artworks that I create…I see myself instead as a medium or channel through which the qualities of beauty, wisdom and joy (in their artistic forms) are expressed. My understanding is that there are greater forces at play that exist outside of myself and at a much deeper level (within myself) and that those forces ‘speak’ to me both through my ancestral bloodline (cellular memory) and through an intimate connection to the Great Spirit that lives and moves within me. These are the real sources of my art. I simply tap into a ‘stream of consciousness’ within which flows an exquisite beauty, an ancient wisdom and a universal joy, and then outwardly express what I feel…that is what I do…that is my ‘gift’. So, if anyone senses beauty, wisdom or joy in the artwork, music or writings contained in this website they must understand that those qualities do not come from me…but through me. They are not mine to claim, I do not have the right to ‘possess’ them.

* The Ceremonial Eagle’s Feather pictured above was gifted to Dennis by the Chief and Council of the Upper Nicola Band (Meritt, British Columbia 1996)