Unification of Naasquuisaqs and Tl’aakwakumlth
Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations hail from the West coast of Vancouver Island and according to their traditional beliefs, have occupied these territories since time immemorial. Like other Northwest Coast indigenous peoples, Nuu-chah-nulth social organization is complex and reflected in design practice and iconography. Families own crests, which are iconographic images that represent histories, rights, and privileges. This design is as a bridal gown that was worn at a potlatch in June 2018 that marked the nuptials of two elders: Naasquuisaqs, a highly ranked Hupacasath woman, and Tl’aakwakumlth, a man from Kyuquot and Nuuchatlaht Nations who holds a Ha’wilth (chief) position in the latter. The wedding gown was a collaboration between a non-Native designer who has worked as an anthropologist in this community for the past decade and a Native designer who is the Uncle of the bride. Naasquuisaqs traveled to the anthropologist’s university for a 4-day period over a long weekend and was body scanned. The body scan was used to manufacture a custom foam dress form in half scale, and the gown was created through draping on this form. The crest images were created by the bride's uncle to represent the unification of the two families, and were painted onto the gown. This creative design scholarship is the result of integrating ongoing ethnographic research, collaborative design practice, new technologies related to body-scanning and half-scale pattern development for custom design, and experiments in surface design techniques. The result acknowledges Nuu-chah-nulth histories and their ongoing cultural practices and iconography. This design also contributes to recent conversations on cultural appropriation by offering new possibilities and shows how collaborative ethnographic design research has the potential to create respectful cultural exchange and designed outcomes that honor and exemplify the cultures of origin.