Confluence Project, Vancouver, WA
I am very honored that I was chosen to create several large works of art for the Confluence Project at the Vancouver site. The site is located at the confluence of the Columbia River and the Klickitat Trail, an area where Native peoples lived and traded for thousands of years.
The site was built to honor the Chinookan people, who were awesome traders. They lived and traded from the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, all the way upriver to the area where my ancestors lived at Celilo. And this area they established within modern-day Vancouver was a major gathering place for them ... and so it was here that they welcomed many people to trade.
And because trade at that place was so well established, the Hudson Bay Company decided to put the first European trading post in the Pacific Northwest at that site. And when Lewis and Clark came along years later, they were also welcomed, and had a great place to camp.
So there's a lot of history there. I think that the architect Johnpaul Jones and the project designer Maya Lin did a great job designing and developing the site, and I really like what Johnpaul Jones says about it: "It completes a circle that's been broken."
What Is the Confluence Project
The confluence project is a multi-site effort spanning a 450-mile stretch along the Columbia River, that honors the various Native American peoples who lived and gathered along the river for thousands of years.
Seven sites in all are planned — five in Washington and two in Oregon. Each site is positioned at the point where a river or trail with historical significance to the Native peoples of the region intersects with the Columbia River.
The project is the result of unprecedented collaboration among Native American people, governmental agencies, civic groups and individuals with a passion for history, for culture, and for creating dialog among disparate groups.
Maya Lin, the famed architect who designed the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. was asked by the project developers to be the designer for all of the project sites. In addition, each of the sites incorporates into its overall design, the works of various contemporary Native American artists from the region.
Map of the Sites
The map above shows the various locations along the Columbia River where the seven sites are planned. The Vancouver Land Bridge, where Lillian's art is featured, is indicated by the arrow.
For more information, please visit the website for the Confluence Project.
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At the Welcome Gate
Lillian Pitt, in the orange coat, stands under the welcome gate she created. She was leading the tour group shown in the photo, which was organized by the Portland Art Museum.
Originally the commission wanted to put a canoe at the top of the gate, but I told them that according to Chinook belief and custom, only Chiefs could be placed in raised canoe. I wanted to honor the Chinook people, so I convinced them to do something different. Eventually they decided that oars would be a good solution.
I'm really pleased with how the cast glass masks in each of th width: 80%;e oars came out. You can only see one in this picture ... the other one is in the oar behind it. They're "Spirit Faces" of Chinook women. My goal was that they would reflect the spirits of the ancestors.
At the Land Overlook
Here's Lillian talking to a tour group about one of the designs she included in the "Land Overlook" installation.
The images in this section are all cut out of the metal. We had to be really careful in how the metal was fabricated and finished so that little kids wouldn't put their fingers in the holes and cut themselves.
But we wanted the images to be cut out because the shadows that they throw are just as important as the images themselves. I think of them as "Shadow Spirits."