Dan Friday

Sxwo'le Anchor

Hand blown glass and cedar bark, 12"h x 9.5"w x 6"d, Item No. 16512,


(Size of glass sculpture without rope: 12"h x 9.5"w x 4"d)


Seattle-based glass artist Dan Friday (Lummi Nation) focuses particularly on the proud resurgence of reefnet fishing amongst the Lummi nation, an indigenous fishing practice that is one of the most sustainable and humane in the world, but that was almost completely wiped out.

Reefnet fishing was traditionally done by suspending a a sxwole (woven reef net) between two canoes. The fishermen watch for the salmon to swim close to the surface, then lift the net. Artificial reefs were created to guide the fish into the net. These reefs were made from cedar bark and nettle fibers with beach grass woven in. When the fish swam in, the scoop shaped net was raised and the fish were trapped.

Once practiced throughout the Salish Sea by its many indigenous peoples, reefnetting now exists only off Lummi Island, three of the other San Juans Islands. Legislation by the Washington State government in the 1890s effectively banned reef netting in favor of white-owned salmon traps—operated by white-owned canneries—devastating the livelihoods of Native families and almost wiping out the practice.

Reefnetting has reappeared in a small but significant way, with the Lummi Nation holding their first reefnetting at Cherry Point in 2013 in modern history. Modern reefnetting is done with two floating platforms, each topped with a tall watchtower, and plenty of hands to haul up the net. Because the platforms are put in place at the beginning of the season and not moved until the end of it, almost no fossil fuels are used in its practice. Using solar power and human power, it is one of the most ecologically sound fishing practices in the world.

“A sxwole (reef net) is a gift from our creator, therefore an inherent right,” said Lummi tribal cultural adiminstrative policy assistant Al Scott Johnnie in 2013. “The sockeye salmon spirit came to our people and showed them how to make the reef net from the willow and other materials that were used from long ago. This was a way of life for our people, and the method was also to allow our sockeye to go up into the river so they could replenish, because they were our extended family.”

In honor of the resurgence of these practices, Dan Friday renders some of the most important tools in reef netting out of glass for his new exhibition. They join other works honoring his Lummi heritage, including woven cedar baskets made from a complex glass mosaic technique; model totem poles in hot-sculpted glass, and others.