Her Nisga’a name means speaking through art — a name that epitomizes Nakkita Trimble’s path.
It is impossible to miss the Northwest Coast art and designs that characterize Prince Rupert. Trimble, a young Nisga’a woman living on Tsimshian territory, wants to add to that space.
Two years ago she purchased a home that she plans to turn into an artist residency where people can carve, photograph and document their work for portfolios and socialize with other artists. Sometime this spring she expects to open her tattoo studio.
The journey up until this point in Trimble’s life is a landscape that stretches from the Nass Valley, to Alberta, Terrace and across the sea to New Zealand, but it all began in Prince Rupert.
“I grew up in these forests, fishing and hunting. I grew up on a gillnetter in the summer months. If we weren’t out commercial fishing we were out food fishing. I’ve grown up eating the food of this area, and in the Nass as well,” Trimble said adding that she visited family there.
She introduces herself in Nisga’a but she was never taught the language. Her grandmother would speak Nisga’a at home with her mom. She picked up some words and phrases. In her late-twenties she is learning the language to speak with elders in her pursuit to revive Nisga’a tattooing and to keep the language alive, reversing the effects of residential schools.
Her dog, Yinni, is also Nisga’a. Trimble first saw her at the Nisga’a new years celebration two years ago.
“She picked me. She came and put her head on my foot. She was the runt and there was six of them fighting over a bowl of rice and I don’t think she would have survived. She looked up at me, the tiniest little ball of fluff, I had to take her,” she said.
Years before she adopted Yinni, Trimble did her post-secondary studies in Alberta. She went to Red Deer College for two years then transferred to be a ceramics major at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. Between semesters she worked with the Alberta’s Future Leaders Program to promote art and recreational activities with youths in First Nations communities. At one point, she was sent out to the Heart Lake First Nation, just below Fort McMurray.
“Through that experience we were doing a lot of ceremony and a lot of late night conversations around the fire. It was like an earthquake happened in my body, I can’t describe it any other way,” she said.
She realized it was time to return home and reconnect with her identity. After completing her Fine Arts degree she had a tattoo of a leaf — a symbol of transition and harmony — inked on her wrist at Wicked Addictions.
At the time, she was having a recurring dream about stretching a bear hide over a frame and tattooing the migration patterns of her family, their bloodline and her grandmother’s portrait.
The tattoo artist listened to Trimble as she described the dream and he told her he was looking for an apprentice. She took him up on his offer and for the next two years she practiced another form of art.
Her path led her to Terrace for another year at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art where she learned formline painting and drawing as a way to fine tune her skills in tattooing traditional formline.
At the college, she saw a presentation on Ta moko, the sacred tattooing of the Maori’s in New Zealand. She then travelled to the South Pacific to learn more about the revival of Ta moko as part of her research to revive Nisga’a tattooing in the Nass Valley.
When she returned, she met with the council of elders from the four communities in the Nass Valley, presented her research and asked if she could revive Nisga’a tattooing as a community. The council agreed, and she remains on this path today while working on the artist residence in Prince Rupert.
Trimble speaks through art with children as well. She has been contracted by School District 52 to teach the young students how to draw and paint. “They have this crazy insight to things. They ask questions that are so good,” Trimble said.
She recently finished a contract at the Northwest Community College where she taught drum making, regalia making and painting formline. She also volunteers with the National Aboriginal Committee and at the Friendship House, where her sister works, and on the odd Monday she dances with the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Hall Dance Group.
As Trimble continues to expand her craft she intends to prop up other artists in the city by providing space in her home and to use art as a language to reconnect the young and old generations of the Nisga’a communities.