By Colin Partridge ~ Artist
I am not native by blood but have always been fascinated by our First Nations People here in Canada. Their beliefs and traditions have always fascinated me and I find myself very much in touch with my native side. I say my native side because I was lost as an artist for many years. Some time ago I was granted audience by a native elder. I explained to him that I wanted to carve native art as well as totems but I did not want to dishonour the First Nations people by doing the carvings. He told me with his blessing to go ahead and carve because being native was not by blood but by calling. He told me that this passion that I had to create these carvings made me as native as he was. I was honoured and blown away by his words and to this day have never looked back and as of today continue to create my carvings from my native side.
In 2009 I was invited by amazing artist by the name of LIz Mitten Ryan to attend one of her workshops at Gateway 2 Ranch in Kamloops, B.C. It is here that I met Liz's herd and with only a short stay, realized that horses were just as intelligent as people if not more. Not having experience with horses outside of this I found that these animals felt emotion, that they hurt and that they felt joy and were probably more in touch with each other than we are as human beings. During my stay at the ranch I gifted a talking stick to Liz for use in her workshops. It is here I was privileged to meet a young lady by the name of Yvonne Allen. We talked and shared stories and she helped me ease the pain of my poor knee's that were both due for knee replacement surgery. She used essential oils and massage techniques that she used on the horses which quite surprised me. The next day my knee's felt much better! Yvonne and I became good friends during our stay and before I left I promised her that I would make her a talking stick for a project she was working on called Voice For The Horse. Here is a brief explanation of how I designed the stick and why I chose this particular piece of wood.
The talking stick is made from old growth Red Oak. The tree was part of a fence row that had probably been there for hundreds of years when there was no wire (tree stumps were used as fences). The stick as you can see has two branches that have grown together and are bonded as if one. This signified to me the bond between humans and horses; a strong bond that could not be pulled apart. This stick was designed with a specific horse in mind known as Five Sails, better known as Jimmy, who was rescued by Yvonne when his career as a race horse (three years of age) was over and destined to go to slaughter. Jimmy sadly was put down last year after 18 years that Yvonne had him. This stick has been created in his honour as a symbol that everyone that wants to be heard, should be heard and as it is in this case, the horses. Here is the legend of this particular talking stick created with the beliefs of the First Nations Peoples.
he talking stick has been used for centuries by the First Nations tribes as a means of just and impartial hearing. The talking stick was commonly used in council circles to designate who had the right to speak. When matters of great concern came before council, the leading elder would hold the talking stick and begin the discussion. When he finished what he had to say he would hold out the talking stick, and whoever wished to speak after him would take it. In this manner the stick was passed from one individual to another until all who wished to speak had done so. The stick was then passed back to the leading elder for safe keeping.
ome tribes used a talking feather instead of a talking stick. Other tribes might have a peace pipe, wampum belt or sacred shell, or some other object by which they designate the right to speak. Whatever the object it carries respect for free speech and assures the speaker he has the freedom and power to say what is in his heart, without fear of reprisal or humiliation. The sticks can be made from any tree; each tree has its own special meaning. This stick is made from oak which symbolizes strength and courage.
hoever holds the talking stick has within his hands the sacred power of words. Only he can speak while he holds the stick; the other council members must remain silent. The eagle feather attached to the stick gives him the courage and wisdom to speak truthfully and wisely. The rabbit fur on the stick reminds him that his words must come from the heart and they should be soft and warm. The blue stone will remind him that the Great Spirit hears the message in his heart as well as the words he speaks. The shell, iridescent and ever changing, reminds him that all creation changes – the days, the seasons, the years – and people and situations change, as well. The four colours of beads – yellow for the sunrise (east) red for the sunset (west) white for the snow (north) and green for the earth (south) – are symbolic of the powers of the universe he has in his hands at the moment to speak what is in his heart. The leather thong that holds the beads is made from the hide of the great moose. He who speaks may do so with the power and strength of this great animal. The wild turkey feather attached to the beads brings peaceful attitudes as well as the give and take necessary in successful completion of disputes.
he speaker should not forget that he carries within himself a sacred spark of the Great Spirit, and therefore he is also sacred. If he feels he cannot honour the talking stick with his words, he should refrain from speaking so that he does not dishonour himself. When he is again in control of his words, the stick will be returned to him. The talking stick is the tool that teaches us to honour the sacred points of view of every living creature
On this particular talking stick are the hairs from five horses who all play an important part of it. The tail hairs of Jimmy go through the ear to the talking sticks spirits so that all words spoken can travel though out the stick and are imbedded in it forever. The hairs from the other four horses are to let the speaker know that these are not just his words that he speaks but that he is also supported by others who share the same spirituality of this talking stick. The feathers at the end of the arms symbolize the power of the thunder gods, along with the power of air and wind. The native beads to remind the speaker of our culture and the wisdom of our First Nations People; that this stick is sacred and should never be abused. The spirit of the artist is within this stick and those that dishonour the stick dishonour the Artist and the First nations people. So in finalization choose your words wisely because the great spirit hear every word.