ti’talus Audrey Joe Santiago is an Elder from shishalh Nation Ɂala ts’unay, Ɂala sxixus, born in kalpalin. She has been weaving for approximately the last fifteen years, and also makes baskets and regalia. She is also active in supporting the shashishalhem language and culture classes in SD46. As secretary of the shishalh Elders Association, she is involved in a range of planning activities for the group, and participates in their advisory meetings for and with the Nation. ti’talus is a mother of four, grandmother of 11, and great grandmother of four. She is a sister of nine so an auntie and grand auntie of many many more. Along with her sister Ɂenchelain Valerie Joe, she is a matriarch in her family.
Three years ago, while participating in the syiyaya film, ti’talus promised that she would make a medicine blanket one day. This project is a testament to that promise kept. As she explains “This Medicine Blanket comes from my great grandmother molyon Marianne Jeffries, and my grandmother lamhaut Lena Joe. When I lived in Ts’unay as a youth, my grandmother always made the youngest kids rock climb on the cliffs where the sxweit’lay (goats) were. Our job was to gather the goat hair off the rocks and bushes for her to spin together into a blanket. We put it in cedar satchels that we carried across our bodies. My grandmothers taught me that this blanket was for healing any time people had a fever. We didn’t have doctors there, but we put medicines in these blankets to help with the healing.”
She also explained, “The Ta’ahs were the matriarchs of the family, and it was their job to keep us healthy after the medicine men disappeared. Ethel, Sarah, Lena, Ellen, Philistine Julian – they were all medicine women. It runs in our family for four or five generations. We’ve been doing this since the 1700s. The blankets were very important in healing amidst the time of the big disease.”