Indigenous tattoo artist Dion Kaszas tattoos an eagle on his sister Kris Wilson’s forearm in honour of their father who died on March 1. He also did the other tattoos on her arm. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Indigenous tattoo artist Dion Kaszas tattoos an eagle on his sister Kris Wilson’s forearm in honour of their father who died on March 1. He also did the other tattoos on her arm. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

B.C. artist featured on T.V. series highlighting Indigenous tattoo artistry

Skindigenous, a series on APTN TV, features international tattooing traditions including a Salmon Arm artist

Through tattooing, Dion Kaszas is playing a key role in stitching together the fabric of indigenous identity that colonization aimed to destroy.

That role is recognized in Skindigenous, a series on APTN TV that features indigenous tattoo artists from places around the world including New Zealand, Alaska, Indonesia, the Philippines, Samoa and Canada.

Kaszas, who grew up in Salmon Arm and practises his skill at Vertigo Tattoo, is described in the series as a leader in the revival of indigenous tattooing.

The revival is also a personal one, as he explains at the opening of the episode.

Amid sweeping views of Shuswap Lake and other areas of the community, Kaszas talks on camera about his experience.

“For me, the process of reviving my indigenous Nlaka’pamux tattooing practice has been a way of remembering, gaining back those teachings, gaining back those cultural ideals I never gained – so it’s a way of healing and re-indigenizing myself.”

For millennia, states the Skindigenous website, humans have been marking their bodies with images and symbols giving visible form to what they hold sacred. “Today,” the site continues, “indigenous artists around the world continue to practice this ancient art using their own techniques and traditions. For these artists, tattooing is an essential part of their cultural identity, as well as a vehicle for connecting with nature, the ancestors, and the spiritual world.”

Kaszas’ connection to indigenous tattooing was awakened in 2006 while sitting in the waiting room of a tattoo shop. He picked up a booklet from the early 1900s by anthropologist James Teit, Tattooing and Face and Body Painting of the Thompson Indians. At that time, he did not know his Nlaka’pamux First Nation had a tattooing tradition.

Much has changed. Kaszas immersed himself in learning about the ancient art. He honed his skills with the traditional hand poke and skin stitch techniques. He began working on his Masters thesis at UBC Okanagan in Indigenous Studies and will soon defend his thesis, which is focused on the revival of indigenous people’s tattooing practices. He has received awards and is sought-after and featured for his knowledge and artistry.

Related: Art provides aboriginal perspective

Coming up on June 7, 8 and 9, Kaszas will be guest curator at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver for Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest.

After APTN’s four days of shooting last year for Kaszas’ episode of Skindigenous, they asked him to become an expert consultant on the series because he knows so many of the indigenous cultural tattoo practitioners.

On the day of the interview for this article, Kaszas’ sister Kris Wilson and her spouse Wes were in his studio.

Grief is fresh for them, as Kris and Dion’s dad died on March 1. He loved eagles. To honour their father, Dion tattooed an eagle on Kris’ arm, appropriately above a mountain tattoo with an Earth line below it.

The Earth line was often on an indigenous person’s garments, explains Kaszas.

“It is connected to our Earth view – our responsibilities and connectiveness to the earth.”

Traditional pit houses were also part of that view.

“When you think of being in a pit house, it’s another way you understand the Earth circling us.”

The tattooed Earth line is also a reminder of that connection.

Kaszas is thrilled to be part of the Skindigenous series, and is excited the production company is indigenous as is the main producer of the show, Jason Brennan. Rather than through a mainstream media lens, he says the show speaks to the whole picture of a revival.

“It’s connected to the historical background of the colonial project, with residential schools, missionization, banning of the potlatch at the Coast and in B.C., and indigenous cultural ceremonies…”

“Tattoos are so tied to our identity,” he emphasizes, and that identity is connected to the land.

“When we come back to uplifting ourselves, we’re not only claiming our own identity, but giving us strength to fight the fights we need to fight, with the reclaiming of our land…”

Kaszas’ episode has already aired on APTN, so can now be viewed online at http://aptn.ca/skindigenous/.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Wes Wilson shows the salmon tattoo Dion Kaszas gave him during the filming of Skindigenous, an APTN TV program featuring indigenous tattoing traditions around the world. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Wes Wilson shows the salmon tattoo Dion Kaszas gave him during the filming of Skindigenous, an APTN TV program featuring indigenous tattoing traditions around the world. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Former Hope resident Jason Thomas Graff is set to be sentenced on charges of telecommunicating to lure a child and posession of child pornography at the Chilliwack Law Courts Jan. 28. (File photo)
Former Hope resident to be sentenced for child luring in Chilliwack court

Sentencing Jan. 28 at Chilliwack Law Courts following offences in Hope, Vancouver Island

A black-capped chickadee tolerates the 40 below zero weather. (File)
Harrison Christmas Bird Count taking flight

Local bird watchers help with worldwide bird tracking effort

RCMP don’t want to see you having your vehicle towed away after an aggressive driving infraction. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP hand out more than 500 tickets in aggressive driving crackdown

Police say they’ll continue to focus on speeding, aggressive and distracted driving

Home sales for November in the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board were profitable for sellers because of historically low supply. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)
Historically low supply leads to higher prices in Chilliwack real estate market

City dwellers want to relocate to the eastern Fraser Valley and are willing to pay a high price

Prolific offender Jonathan David Olson (left) and Brodie Tyrel Robinson, both of Chilliwack, were convicted of several offences in BC Supreme Court in August 2019 in connection to a crime spree on the Canada Day long weekend in 2017.
Dangerous offender designation off the table for Chilliwack gangster

Jonathan Olson found guilty in connection with 2017 crime spree now facing 14 years maximum

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Escapee in Abbotsford has twice been on the lam from authorities

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read