Virgil “Smoker” Marchand passed away on Jan. 13, a press release from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation said. Marchand had been serving in the Colville Business Council as an elected representative from the Omak District. He was 71.
A member of the Arrow Lakes Band (snʕáyckst/speckled fish) of the Colville Tribes, Marchand was widely known throughout the Okanogan region, the western United States, and Canada as an artist, most notably for his commanding large-scale steel sculptures. Hundreds of figures of humans, fish, birds, and mammals are installed at cultural centers, natural areas, and parks, while others exist in open spaces or forested areas far from civic areas.
Marchand attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico but the Okanogan region was always his home, and he returned shortly after graduating from art school. He worked for the Colville Tribes for nearly 50 years and created art in the evenings and on weekends.
In the Methow Valley, Marchand’s largest collection of sculptures resides at Homestream Park in Winthrop, which is “dedicated to the rivers and fish of the Methow Valley, and to the Native people, past and present, who have called [the Methow Valley] home for thousands of years.” Commissioned by Homestream Park founders Phil and Cathy Davis, Marchand’s “Coming Home” installation consists of a dozen sculptures featuring salmon, horses and other animals, and Indigenous people engaged in activities of traditional daily life, such as fishing and drying salmon.
Jarred-Michael Erickson, Chairman of the Colville Tribes, said, “The Colville Business Council is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our colleague, Smoker Marchand. Smoker was a strong voice for his people and he brought a unique perspective to tribal government. We will all miss him.”
The chairman continued, “There will be time in the future to discuss Smoker’s life and accomplishments. For now, we want to respect the privacy of Smoker’s family and loved ones in this period of grief, and we ask others to do the same.”