Skip to body

Central Washington University

?ax??mn ’ — "To Brush the Water" at CWU Museum

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Sn?áyckst Bark Sturgeon Nose Canoe featured in an exhibit ?ax??mn ? - “To Brush the Water,” hosted by the CWU Museum of Culture & Environment through Dec. 4.  

Two new exhibits have opened at the Central Washington University Museum of Culture and Environment, and will be on display until Dec. 4.  

On display in the main gallery is ?ax??mn  ? — “To Brush the Water”: Reviving Canoe Culture on the Upper Columbia River (2012 – 2021), curated by artist and scholar Shawn Brigman, an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and descendant of the sn?áyckst (Sinixt) and tk’emlúps te Secwepemc (Shuswap), both of whom are documented as historically employing bark sturgeon-nose canoes. 

The exhibit celebrates the artistry of elegant and functional designs made by Indigenous Plateau people. Visitors to the exhibit will first notice a blue canoe suspended from the gallery’s ceiling. Rendered in ballistic nylon and stretched over a frame made of milled cedar, maple, and lashed with artificial sinew, this contemporary method developed by Brigman in 2013 is called a “Salishan Sturgeon Nose Canoe,” with over 30 made by Brigman for specialized uses. 

The second canoe featured in the exhibit is a sn?áyckst Bark Sturgeon Nose Canoe sculpted in 2012. To recover this all-natural bark canoe, Brigman drew upon historical documents detailing this traditional Plateau canoe style as well as attending material harvest workshops taught by the Kalispell Tribe and the Lower Kootenay Band. Also on display are works from Brigman’s special glass series, “Plateau Village Implementations.” The pieces were created in cooperation with the hotshop team at the Museum of Glass Tacoma in 2019 during Brigman’s artist in residence tenure. 

A second exhibit, “You’re in Wheat Country: A Photographic Journey with Skip Smith,” features photographs from small towns located in the arid wheat-country of Eastern Washington, such as Washtucna, Ritzville, Kahlotus, Lind, and Connell. Visitors will enjoy poignant landscapes and portraits that capture the subtle beauty of everyday life in these communities. 

Smith photographed and interviewed residents, who shared meaningful stories about the places they call home. While the 2021 growing season has been harsh for these communities — with drought and high temperatures—the photographs of each towns showcase the pride among the people as they meet the increasingly difficult challenge of farming.  

The CWU Museum of Culture and Environment is located in Dean Hall (1200 Wildcat Way) on the CWU campus. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. To learn more about the two new exhibits at the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment, visit, call 509-963-2313, or email Additional details can be found on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages.


About the Salish Language

The use of Salish language, the first language of the land, is imperative in communicating about the exhibit ?ax??mn ’ - "To Brush the Water.”  

Media Contact: Hope Amason, or (509) 963-1836

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.