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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Native American Artist Lillian Pitt Shares Mask Making Traditions
by Jule Gilfillan - Oregon Public Broadcasting

Lillian Pitt helps Celilo Village children create "Stick Indian" masks.

Native American artist Lillian Pitt feels a deep commitment to passing on the legends of her people to the younger generations.

Pitt, who is a descendent of Wasco, Yakama and Warm Springs people, has created many works of art drawing on the tradition of the Columbia River region, including sculpture, mixed media, clay, bronze, wearable art, prints and glass — and of course masks.

"Giving reference to the elders by duplicating the petroglyphs and using the basket designs in my masks has always been the basis for my work. And I always hope I'm doing it with honor and reverence," says Pitt.

All spring, this busy Portland-based artist made the 90-minute drive to Celilo Village east of The Dalles many times to teach the village children ceramics and the cautionary tale of the "Stick Indians." The Stick Indians are shadowy spirits whose whistling guides good humans back to the safety of the village and bad humans deeper into the forest where they are lost forever.

After weeks of sculpting, glazing and firing, the children put the finishing touches on their own ceramic Stick Indian masks.

"I have been so thrilled with their abilities, to pick up so quickly with just a couple of lessons to make the masks," says Pitt. "There are a few of them who are really, really talented."

An exhibit featuring the masks opens July 16 with Lillian Pitt giving a slideshow at 3pm and then at 4pm, the Celilo children presenting their work and sharing the legend with museum visitors. The exhibit at the EyeSEE children's gallery at the Maryhill Museum of Art will be up throughout the summer.

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Lillian Pitt
Lillian Pitt is a Pacific Northwest Native American artist whose ancestors lived in and near the Columbia River Gorge for over 10,000 years. Called simply the Big River or the Nch'i-Wana by her ancestors, the Columbia River was the backbone of one of the largest trade networks in all of Native America.

Maryhill Museum of Art
From the unique Columbia River Gorge, Maryhill Museum of Art collects, presents and preserves art and historical and natural resources, to enrich and educate residents and visitors of the Pacific Northwest.

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