By Puyallup Tribal News Staff
Speakthunder has been practicing art since second grade.
Just over 26 years have passed since he put pen to paper to create his first coastal piece, when he was a student at Chief Leschi Schools.
“CLS was located where the current EQC tent is back then,” he said.
While in the portables, he recalls seeing a wolf in a coloring book. He was so young he didn’t know how to trace yet. He set the wolf next to a blank piece of paper and just drew it. The teachers were so impressed that they placed Speakthunder into a gifted and talented program for the arts. That’s where he would learn his skills and set the foundation needed to pursue a career in the arts.
Speakthunder is a member of the Warm Springs Tribe, located in Oregon.
“It often surprises people when they find out what tribe I’m enrolled,” he said. His father is a plains and Columbia River Native and his mother is Puyallup along with his siblings and his children.
He grew up in the Tacoma area, and many know him around the community. He was raised as Bruce Berry, but now goes by his Native name Speakthunder.
Speakthunder offers paint classes for some of the Puyallup Tribe’s programs, including Housing and the Culture Department. He creates art kits that include a drawing on canvas, along with paint supplies and a paintbrush.
“I am big on preserving culture through art in our community,” he said.
Speakthunder’s favorite medium is a pen and ink.
“Freehand is the best,” he said. “Painting drums is the most relaxing, and healing process.”
One of his biggest pieces is featured in the Waterway Deli at the new Emerald Queen Casino. The $400 million casino which opened in June is filled with artwork commissioned by Puyallup Tribal artists, including murals, story poles, light fixtures with Coast Salish basketry designs and a larger than life collage of historic photographs. Tribal art is also being incorporated in the EQC’s new hotel, which is next door.
Speakthunder’s salmon design is located on steel dividers that separate the restaurant from the casino, and the placement was done intentionally.
On the west side of the restaurant, there’s a moon that represents nighttime, and the west represents the sunset. In the middle, there are salmon swimming upstream to the east towards the mountains, which is also sunrise.
“I drew the sun on the east side of the building so that the salmon are swimming from the moon to the sun or from west to east, it’s the ocean to the mountain,” he said.
View more art online
Before the pandemic, Speakthunder frequently set up a table in the lobby of the Tribal Administration building offering self-portraits and painting on drums. He isn’t able to do that currently due to COVID-19 restrictions, however you can currently view his work at facebook.com/speakthunderart or email him at [email protected] or visit his website: SpeakthunderArt.com
Photo by Saiyare Refaei