Shawn Brigman Ph.D. is an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and descendant of northern Plateau bands (snʕáyckst - sinixt, sənpʕʷilx - san poil, and tk’emlúps te secwepemc - shuswap). As a traditional artisan for 15 consecutive years, his creative practice has been one of project based ancestral recovery efforts in Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, and Montana, exploring and transforming the way people read Plateau architectural space by celebrating the physical revival of ancestral Plateau art and architectural heritage.
This involves working with communities to connect to sources of Indigenous knowledge, often taking participant learners out to ancestral lands to gather a diverse range of natural materiality for ancestral structures like tule mat lodges, pit houses, and bark sturgeon-nose canoes. In addition, Brigman developed an original contemporary canoe interpretation in 2013 with a unique frame assemblage and fabric skin attachment method now widely known across the Plateau region as a Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoe, and he often gives presentations on this sculptural form. During the 2016 Prayer Journey to Standing Rock, North Dakota, four of his Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoes successfully delivered water protectors who brushed the water of the Missouri River to the Cannonball River with gathered canoes from the Pacific Northwest.
Bark sturgeon-nose canoe shapes, construction techniques, and other characteristics are generated from centuries old local patterns. Although there is diversity within the styles of northern Plateau bark-sturgeon nose canoes, the principles of construction are the same and often the styles overlap with only subtle differences. Brigmans artistic goal is to increase awareness and opportunities for Plateau canoe making artisans to teach, preserve, present, and protect the integrity of ancestral “bark sturgeon-nose canoes” and his contemporary line of “Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoes” from cultural appropriation.