Skip to main content

Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest
On view November 6, 2022 – April 16, 2023
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Seattle, Washington

“Body Language” explores the rich history and artistry of Indigenous tattooing and personal adornment on the Northwest Coast of North America. Since time immemorial, Native peoples on the coast marked their clan crests and symbols of personal identity onto their skin. Tattoos were a celebration and recognition of special life events, potlatches, and social rank. When these practices were banned in the nineteenth century, the display of personal crest designs was transferred to clothing and jewelry.

This multimedia shows how the ongoing revitalization of traditional tattooing practices reveals and embodies—literally and figuratively—the destructive effects of colonialism and the resilience of Northwest Indigenous communities. The exhibit was recognized in 2020 by the Canadian Museum Association for “Outstanding Achievement in Research”; the Burke will be the first U.S. venue to host the show.

[Images: (Left) Photograph by Kenji Nagai. (Right) Photograph by Timothy Kenney/Burke Museum]