In the time of our great-grandparents, a number of
Kwakwaka’wakw people were sent to jail for singing and dancing: traditional
Indigenous culture was unlawful at that time. They served their sentences at Oakalla
Prison near Vancouver, far away from their communities and families.
One woman, Emma Martin, felt that she had to do something
to help her people so she left her village and went to live in the city, where
she visited the people, she brought them gifts of food and other items to help
them during their incarceration, and when they were released she gave them
money and clothes to return home. She is a heroine of the Kwakwaka’wakw and
serves as a role model for those who remember her.
The labret in her lower lip represents her status as a high
born woman, with copper having special historical / cultural significance. The
face on the forehead represents the people that she helped.