Toni Frank (Shahtle Mult) comes from the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw People. She is Shíshálh (Sechelt) and K’ómoks (Comox). Toni was born and raised on K’ómoks Traditional Territory overlooking the Puntledge River estuary in the Comox Valley, and grew up near the K’ómoks Big House that is used for all kinds of ceremonies and community functions.
“It was life on the rez as a kid. We ran around and played and snuck into Potlaches…I became a part of a youth group with Wedlidi Speck and Joanne Restoule and we traveled down to Arizona to learn more about culture. We took part in a youth cultural exchange with the Hopi people.
“With my youth group, I got to learn how to make button blankets with K’ómoks Elder, Mary Everson. We also learned the different dances and I quite often danced the ‘Dzunukwa’ (Wild Woman of the Woods).”
Toni’s family were her mentors and they taught her to appreciate all types of cultural arts and crafts. “My dad is my biggest inspiration, he is my everything, he is my hero. I used to sit and watch him for hours while he drew. Dad is an artist, he can draw the real-life form, he painted, he’s done carvings…
“My auntie Dee was a beader so we wore all her beadwork as kids. I was very inspired and I actually started off with beading. My sister draws, my brother is a carver, my other brother is a cook. We do a lot of cooking and art in our family, the two kind of go hand-in-hand.”
Practising her art was always a source of comfort and satisfaction. “For me, art is very calming. It takes me away from the daily stress of life. I love weaving… I would do it every day if I could.”
Toni started dabbling in cedar bark around 1994 when the I’Hos canoe was built. “We started off doing head bands because we wanted the pullers to have pieces of regalia as they went.”
She stripped her first cedar tree in 1997 on Cortes Island when her partner was building a canoe in the bush for his people. “When I go into the bush to cedar strip, for some people it might be just a couple hour thing, but I spend the whole day. I take the time to sit under the cedar trees, have my thoughts and prayers, clear my mind. I pray to the cedar trees, I thank the cedars trees for what they are going to give me, and I always leave an offering.”
In her Cedar Bark Weaving, Toni’s work reflects different cultural styles. “I dabble in both Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw art, and I have just been given permission to do a Nuu-chah-nulth style cedar whaler’s hat.”
Today she lives with her own family in K’ómoks Territory. Toni continues to practice her craft and share her cultural traditions with her children and friends. She is currently mentoring several people who are learning about traditional weaving in the Coast Salish Way.