OFN Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program receives NEA funds: Meet the Mentors and Apply for next year!

OFN is thrilled to accept a $47,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support Oregon’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) and other statewide initiatives that promote folk and traditional arts. Additional funding from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Historical Society make it possible for us to support TAAP to the extent that we do.

The five 2020 Oregon master traditional artists are mentoring experienced apprentices from their own culture groups and Tribes.

Meet Oregon’s 2020 TAAP awardees.

  • Hossein Salehi is teaching apprentice Alireza Talebannejad to play the Persian santoor.
  • Josue Noel Napoles Mendoza is teaching Mexican charrería (trick-roping) to Columbia Napoles Mendoza
  • Miguel Angel Ruiz Rangel is teaching Mexican talabartería (leather work) to Antonio Huerta
  • H’Klumaiyat-Roberta Joy Kirk is teaching Longhouse/Plateau sewing and beadworking to Maria Godines
  • Celeste Whitewolf is teaching Cayuse/Nez Perce/Umatilla weaving and gathering to Brosnan Spencer

All will be mentoring apprentices from their own culture groups and Tribes in the traditional forms noted.

OFN is now accepting applications for next year’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (Due Oct 1, 2020 for projects in 2021). TAAP offers folk and traditional master artists and culture keepers a $3,500 stipend to teach their art form to apprentices from their own communities, Tribes, religious or occupational groups. This stipend supports master artists to share their knowledge, skills and expertise with apprentices of great promise who will be empowered to carry on and strengthen Oregon’s living cultural traditions.

We encourage applications from Oregonians practicing cultural traditions emerging from their own heritage or Tribes. This program does not fund historic reenactments or cultural appropriation.

To learn more about application procedures and eligibility or to recommend a TAAP applicant, visit ofn.uoregon.edu, email ofn@uoregon.edu, or call 541-346-3820. Our staff members are standing by to provide application advice and will provide feedback on draft applications sent prior to submission.

OFN Welcomes New Staff

Being housed at the University of Oregon empowers OFN to provide rich professional development experience. We offer a variety of student opportunities to train emerging public folklorist. Please welcome…

Rebecca Pace, a first-year M.A. student in Folklore and Public Culture, working at the OFN for the 2019 – 2020 Academic Year. Originally from Los Angeles, Rebecca earned her B.A. in Theatre and Cinema Studies, with a minor in Psychology, from Northeastern University in Boston. She returns to the west coast after residing in Washington, D.C. for several years – working in public policy, non-profits, and communications, while becoming a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM).

Key among her program administration duties at OFN is managing the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. She plans to take advantage of the many opportunities offered within the UO Folklore Program.

Buckaroo Exhibit Pairs with Blake Little’s Gay Rodeo Exhibit at MNCH

We are happy to announce the return of and updates to our Buckaroo Traditions of Oregon exhibit! This exhibit celebrates the continuity of occupational traditions in rural Oregon and encourages audience understanding and appreciation of art forms arising from ranching practices.

Cowboys have made an enduring mark on the American popular imagination but not every cowboy is a buckaroo. What sets them apart? In addition to their sense of style and self-sufficiency, buckaroos work almost exclusively from horseback in the manner of their vaquero predecessors. In the Great Basin, knowledge of many vaquero and buckaroo traditions have been passed along through families and become integrated into the lives of working ranchers and horsemen. Buckaroos are unique in their use of extensive horse training techniques and custom handcrafted gear, including traditional saddles featuring intricate leather- and silverwork as well as mecates (ropes) made from horse mane hair and braided rawhide reatas (lassos).

Some of the most vibrant examples of buckaroo artistic traditions are thriving in rural eastern and southern Oregon, despite their decline elsewhere. Buckaroo Traditions of Oregon features a mecates by Helen Dougal Corbari, and the tooled leatherwork of saddle maker Steve McKay. These pieces represent a unique blend of hard work and artistry.

The exhibit was made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the fieldwork of folklorists Douglas Manger and LuAnne Kozma. Featuring folk artists Merlin Rupp, Helen Dougal Corbari, Bill and Teresa BlackLen Babb III, and Steve McKay from Malheur, Harney, and Lake counties, the exhibit traces the development from vaquero to buckaroo. It features the artistry of some of Oregon’s finest gear-makers. Folklorist Adrienne Decker served as the exhibit curator, while folklorist and exhibit designer/fabricator Lyle Murphy designed and built the exhibit.

OFN’s Buckaroo exhibit augments the Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s Blake Little: Photographs From The Gay Rodeo exhibit, which has been extended to February 20, 2020. The gay rodeo movement began in the 1970s, combining gay and cowboy culture to combat stereotypes and create a community for marginalized individuals among the rodeo scene. The movement grew to be the second-largest rodeo circuit, creating the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) in 1985. Despite its successful trajectory, it met opposition and remained relatively underground to protect its members from scrutiny and discrimination. Today it is internationally renowned and open to all – while still highly encouraging LBGTQ+ participation. Little’s photographs chronicle the period between 1988 – 1992. Folklorist Craig Miller of Utah wrote a piece about the movement: “Gay Rodeo; a Celebration of Western Urban Heritage and Urban Gay Culture” and delivered a talk at the MNCH in October 2019; Miller, an experienced ballroom and western swing dance instructor, also led a rousing rodeo dance party, which included dance lessons for all attendees. Little and Miller were among the first few to document gay rodeos; their work illustrates how gay rodeo challenged and embraced the image of the cowboy while simultaneously shaping their own identity and agency in the West.

Buckaroo Exhibit at the OFN

Both exhibits are located on the University of Oregon campus: Buckaroo Traditions of Oregon in the OFN exhibit cases on the second floor of UO Knight Library, Room 242; and the Blake Little: Photographs From The Gay Rodeo at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

First Peoples Fund Honors TAAP and Roster Artist, Roberta J. Kirk

Congratulations to Roberta J. Kirk for her First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Award! This award honors Roberta Kirk for her beautiful traditional beadwork and regalia as well as her devotion and service to her community and tribe. She has been a master artist in OFN’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and is on the Culture Keepers Roster.

(Rapid City, SD) – First Peoples Fund, a national organization supporting Native American artists and culture bearers, has named four outstanding individuals from across the country as recipients of the 2020 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award. A nationwide committee selected the honorees, and the prestigious award includes a $7,500 grant.

“Throughout their lives these culture bearers have quietly, selflessly shared their knowledge, skills and traditions,” says Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund. “Through the Community Spirit Awards, First Peoples Fund honors their generosity and shines a light on their work to restore and pass on ancestral knowledge and traditions, connecting their peoples to their greatest assets.”

Award recipients come from a wide range of tribes and creative disciplines:

  • Roberta Kirk (Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon/Diné) Warm Springs, Oregon– beadwork, leatherwork, fashion design, culinary arts
  • Corine Pearce (Redwood Valley Rancheria Little River Band of Pomo Indians) Sequim, Washington – basketry, weaving
  • Virgil “Smoker” Marchand (Colville Tribe/Arrow Lakes) Omak, Washington – painting, sculpture
  • TahNibaa Naataanii (Navajo) Shiprock, New Mexico – weaving

Named after First Peoples Fund’s founder, the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award (CSA) recognizes exceptional artists who have shown a continued commitment to perpetuating their art and sharing it within their communities. These practicing artists embody the Collective Spirit®, and are nominated for the award by their students, mentees, fellow artists and community members.

First Peoples Fund is a national organization based in Rapid City, South Dakota dedicated to honoring and supporting Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists and culture bearers across the country. First Peoples Fund has been honoring culture bearers with the Community Spirit Award for over 20 years and over 100 artists from Maine to Alaska have been honored.

For further information about First Peoples Fund or to apply for support through one of our programs, please visit www.firstpeoplesfund.org  or contact us at First Peoples Fund, P.O. Box 2977, Rapid City, SD 57709-2977.

Contact: Amber Hoy, Program Manager of Fellowships (605) 348 – 0324 amber@firstpeoplesfund.org

Media Corner: Folklife Fieldwork in Northwest Oregon, Student Photo Essay

UO Folklore graduate students Christal Snyder and Iris Teeuwen conducted fieldwork in Clatsop County with OFN Director, Riki Saltzman, and contract folklorist Douglas Manger (August 23-25, 2019). Christal Snyder also accompanied Saltzman and contract folklorist Joe O’Connell (UO Folklore alumni) in Lincoln County, August 9-11.

In Clatsop County, we observed Finnish traditions, foodways, and seaways, while in Lincoln County we experienced chainsaw carving, the Siletz Pow-Wow, and waterways traditions. Those interactive and behind-the-scenes experiences that folklorists in the field get to experience are priceless. We are most grateful to the UO Folklore and Public Culture program, which funded our graduate student fieldwork internship travel expenses.

Lincoln County: August 9-11

Christal and Riki met up with Joe in Seal Rock (Lincoln County), where we interviewed Karl Kowalski, a second-generation chainsaw carver. Karl’s shop was rich with history and fun to photograph. He quickly warmed up to us and had an engaging sense of humor. By way of explaining how he got started in this business, Karl told us that his father managed a sideshow attraction behind a shop full of whimsical chainsaw carvings. While Karl devotes most of a room of his shop to his father’s carvings, his own designs possessed a character of their own. Everywhere you look, there are carved bears of all shapes and sizes as well as other critters scattered throughout the shop. Each of Karl’s creatures has a personality of its own.

Second-generation chainsaw carver Karl Kowalski in front of his shop – photo by Christal Snyder

Father and son wooden carving in front of Kowalski’s shop – photo by Christal Snyder

Carved Viking couple – photo by Christal Snyder

Wooden bears welcome visitors to Kowalski’s – photo by Christal Snyder

Inside the shop are shelves full of different types of bear carvings – photo by Christal Snyder

The next day Christal, Riki, and Joe got an early start and attended the annual Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow, which began with a parade. Members of the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians wore their traditional handmade regalia, walked or rode in artfully decorated cars, and threw candy and other treats to the crowds stretched along the parade grounds.

Veterans traditionally lead pre-Pow-WOW parades – photo by Christal Snyder

Siletz Pow-Wow princesses wave to the parade-goers – photo by Christal Snyder

Young women and children in traditional regalia – photo by Christal Snyder

Next, we headed to the Pow-Wow. The rich smell of fried, grilled, and stewed food drew us to the vendor area that encircled the Pow-Wow grounds. We had to try out the local Indian tacos, made of fresh fry bread piled with sautéed ground beef and topped with chopped onions, salsa, and tomatoes. Craft vendors were interspersed with food booths, and folks from tribes near and far sold jewelry, hand-tooled leatherwork, traditional clothing, and more; a Navajo woman was selling intricate beadwork.

The afternoon’s formal events opened with a salute to the flag; veterans lead the procession as the Pow-Wow MC asked everyone to stand and remove their hats. A series of different dances for different age groups and genders followed.

Young boys participate in the Pow-Wow – photo by Christal Snyder

A group of young adults and children enter the Pow-Wow – photo by Christal Snyder

Several drum groups took turns accompanying the dances and setting the rhythm.

A drum with several men or boys who simultaneously sing and drum– photo by Christal Snyder

A young woman in her jingle dress – photo by Christal Snyder










On our last day in Lincoln County, we strolled along the fishing docks and then visited the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport. There we wandered through a fascinating exhibit on shrimping, a larger room that detailed the heritage of Oregon’s northern coast, halls full of local paintings, and a beautiful space for public events and screenings. It also allowed us to learn more about the region, and we found out that surfing has a long history in the area. We connected with executive director, Steve Wyatt, who was as enthusiastic as we were about developing future partnerships.

Newport Harbor and bridge – photo by Christal Snyder

Newport fishing docks – photo by Christal Snyder

Astoria – Clatsop Co: August 23-25, 2019

Iris Teeuwen and Christal Snyder accompanied Riki Saltzman to Astoria (August 23-25), which is situated at the mouth of the Columbia River. We met up with folklorist Douglas Manger, who had been contracted to document traditions in Clatsop County, among others. Our time with Douglas was packed with hands-on opportunities.

View of a harbor and the Astoria-Megler Bridge – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Our first stop was the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where we met with assistant curator, Matthew Palmgren. Palmgren gave us historical background on the region and took us through a huge warehouse full of historic fishing boats.

Columbia River Maritime Museum – photo by Christal Snyder

The “Duke” awaits repair in the Columbia River Maritime Museum boat storage unit– photo by Christal Snyder








After a tour of the archives and a stop at the Museum gift shop, we drove over to Andy Carlson’s house and fish-smoking shed where we interviewed Carlson and grandson Aleks Matthews about Finnish traditions. Douglas asked Iris and Christal to take the lead interviewing Aleks about Finnish saunas, a traditional feature of most Finnish- American homes in Astoria. Aleks told us about visiting his grandparents every Sunday for traditional food and family time in the sauna. We truly valued the experience of coming up with questions on the spot, a skill that all folklore fieldworkers must learn. We got to tour Andy’s sauna and smokehouse, and he put out a generous spread of his smoked salmon, tuna, and elk for us to sample. While we ate, Andy told us stories about what it was like to grow up Finnish-American in the area, which involved not only family gatherings but also a variety of community events—including concerts, plays, dances, and meals—at the Finnish Brotherhood’s Suomi Hall.

Andy Carlson in his garden in front of his heavily laden apple tree – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Carlson’s Finnish smokehouse – photo by Christal Snyder

Cold-smoked salmon – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Iris Teeuwen interviews Aleks Matthews in his family sauna – photo by Christal Snyder

Andy Carlson explains how to use the Finnish sauna – photo by Christal Snyder










The next morning, we met with Beth Kondall, one of the skilled traditional bakers at Astoria’s Blue Scorcher Bakery. We had the opportunity to engage in participant-observation fieldwork by not only interviewing and photographing, Beth, but also helping Beth prepare a variety of Finnish pastries and breads. The highlight was braiding and glazing pulla, a traditional Finnish cardamom-flavored sweet bread traditionally served with coffee—a practice so customary that the rich bread is often called coffee bread. The next day, after serving us some pulla to go with our coffee, Beth gifted us with the loaves we had braided.

(L to R) Christal, Beth, Riki, Douglas. Beth shows Riki how to braid pulla while Douglas and Christal document – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Beth braids the buttery pulla dough – photo by Christal Snyder


Beth shows off the braided pulla before she puts in in the warming oven to rise one more time before baking – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Beth sections off dough for fruit tarts – photo by Christal Snyder

Beth had Iris, Christal, and Riki fill the pastries prior to baking – photo by Christal Snyder







After our bakery visit, we drove over to Suomi Hall, the center for the historic Finnish Brotherhood in Astoria. There we interviewed Dea Helligso, Helen Pitkanen, and other women from the Finnish community about their traditions, history, and ancestors’ migration to northwest Oregon.

Christal and Iris interview Finnish Brotherhood members at Suomi Hall – photo by Riki Saltzman

We certainly did not lack for food on this trip! Our generous hosts treated us to a freshly baked pannukakku, a “pancake” served with raspberry sauce – photo by Riki Saltzman









Next, we drove over to the Columbia River Bar Pilot office where we spoke with retired bar pilot, Robert Johnson. One of the most dangerous occupations in the world, bar pilots are responsible for taking ships from the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean—over the ever-changing Columbia River Bar. A bar pilot has to know every inch of land and water, be able to read weather changes, and know whether or not to risk the dangerous crossing. Johnson has a lifetime full of fascinating information on maritime logistics and experiences, and his personal charisma makes him a compelling storyteller.

Columbia River Bar Pilots’ building, where we interviewed Robert Johnson – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Robert Johnson (left) talks to folklorist Douglas Manger (right) – photo by Riki Saltzman

Miniature pilot boat – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Actual pilot boat on the Columbia River – photo by Riki Saltzman

A typical container ship awaiting cargo on the Columbia River. The pilot boat goes out to the ship, where the Bar Pilot climbs a long rope ladder to board and take the ship across the Bar – photo by Christal Snyder

Douglas had to tear us away from our session with Robert Johnson to get to Helen Pitkanen’s house on time. A no-nonsense woman of many talents, Helen immediately put Iris and Christal to work to help her make a traditional Finnish rice pudding.

Christal getting instructions from Helen Pitkanen – photo by Riki Saltzman

Finished rice pudding with cherry preserves – photo by Riki Saltzman










In between stints of stirring the thickening pudding, Helen showed us her paintings and her collections, including a handcrafted Finnish basket.

Traditional Finnish Basket (top and side views) at the Pitkanen house – photos by Christal Snyder

With full stomachs from enjoying Helen’s creamy rice pudding topped with her yummy cherry preserves, we went back to our hotel to rest up for the evening’s activities. Our new friends at Suomi Hall invited us to a local theatrical performance where we learned more about the early Finnish immigrants and their connection to Astoria’s fishing, canning, and logging industries.

We spent our final day in Brownesmead, where we interviewed Delwin Barnsde a net maker and mender, hunter, boat builder, and more. Barnsde spent his life fishing, and now lives in his handcrafted roundhouse on a tributary of the Columbia River. Besides fishing and net mending, a critical skill for fishermen, Barnsde is a hunter and a master duck decoy carver who has taught others this traditional craft.

Delwin Barnsde with a photo collage – photo by Iris Teeuwen

Delwin Barnsde’s roundhouse exterior – photo by Christal Snyder

View of the river from the Barnsde’s deck – photo by Christal Snyder

One of Barnsde’s nets, which he is in the process of mending– photo by Christal Snyder



A Barnsde’s hand-carved duck decoy – photo by Iris Teeuwen.

Duck hunting boat – photo by Christal Snyder

Crawfish trap – photo by Christal Snyder







Our Astoria weekend with Douglas Manger gave us a new perspective on fieldwork that we would have never gotten otherwise. Instead of simply observing or studying in a classroom, we got to experience conducting interviews and gained invaluable hands-on experience. All the tradition keepers we met were extremely kind and welcoming. We learned so much about their culture and traditions, and we left with fond memories of our time in the field as folklorists.

Clatsop County Fieldwork

Douglas Manger

Like a twisting myrtlewood tree growing close by the sea, Highway 101 makes its way in circuitous fashion along Oregon’s spectacular Pacific coastline. During the month of August, Joe O’Connell and I trekked this evocative route, flush with names that spark imaginings of what folkways might be found in places like Winchester Bay, Dunes City, Yachats, Seal Rock, Neskowin, Manzanita, Astoria.

Persist and you will find tradition keepers at every turn. Clatsop County’s Andy Carlson is one of them. Bent slightly with age, Carlson can often be found out back tending salmon sides in his home-built smokehouse. Like many in and around Astoria, his ancestry is part Finnish, part Swedish. Look at Carson’s hands, they speak volumes of a life shaped by tradition on the Columbia River. He was a tug boater for 12 years and a pilot boat owner/operator for 32 years. Watch his hands. Carlson skillfully fillets, cures, then hot or cold smokes sides of salmon that many locals call the best around. That spelled eight years of trial and error with regular visits to his mentor (now passed)—a master at smoking salmon—before the acknowledgment came, “I think you’ve got it.”

Andy filleting a salmon

Andy’s grilled cedar plank salmon

Smoking salmon sides, Andy’s smokehouse

How do we find such special tradition keepers? Serendipity plays a role. Scout the main mercantile street in Astoria, introduce yourself to Saara Matthews at Finn Ware, explain the project, and voila: “My father, Andy Carlson, is someone you might find interesting.”

Like that wind-twisted myrtlewood tree, generational traditions don’t always come down in a straight line. For Sandra Porter it was her grandmother who instilled in her a love of cooking and making do. At the Porter’s farmstand near Cloverton, at what was once her grandparent’s farm, you’ll get a feel for her grandmother’s influence: fresh cut flowers for sale, along with produce from their garden; fresh fish from Waylon Porter’s morning dory run; bulbs from the countless varieties her grandparents planted across the road in the 1990s; ice cream, and, oh, yes, Sandra Porter’s famous pies! Be it winter or summer, once the word is out on Facebook, her pies—marionberry, strawberry, apple crumble pie, to name a few—literally fly off the shelf.

A favorite is pumpkin pie made with green, home-grown, Jarrahdale pumpkins that top 50 pounds. Once cut into large wedges Porter roasts them in the oven to give the pie “another elevation of flavor.”

To make food, to cook for people, is just a really great way to show people that you love them, and you care about them. And people, people need that right now. Everybody needs nourished and they need more love.”


Sandra’s homemade pies

Sandra’s variety of pies for sale

Why the popularity of Carlson’s smoked salmon or Porter’s homemade pies? In each instance, under the watchful eye of an elder, they had a starting point from which to learn and to grow—and by introducing their own preferences—to make the making their own.

Given their heartfelt connections to the past, within this context their methodologies spark a duality, providing nourishment on the one hand and emotional sustenance on the other. It then becomes not just a smoked salmon or a homemade pie—it becomes “Andy Carson’s special smoked salmon” and “Sandra Porter’s special homemade pies” in all their resonance with a nod from generations past.

Douglas Manger is a career folklorist with over 20 years of experience. Since 2014 he has collaborated with OFN on folklife surveys in Southeastern Oregon (Malheur and Harney counties); the High Desert region, 2016 (Deschutes, Crook, Baker, Union); Portland Metro region, 2016 (Yamhill and Clackamas); and in August of this year, the Oregon coast (Douglas, Tillamook, Clatsop). Early in his career, Manger directed the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance in Pennsylvania. He later managed folk and traditional arts programming at Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in Baltimore serving nine states and jurisdictions. At Mid Atlantic, Manger project managed the award-winning publication, From Bridge to Boardwalk: An Audio Journey Across Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 2007, Manger returned home to Texas to found HeritageWorks. HeritageWorks has since conducted multi-year regional folklife field surveys in South and East Texas for the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, and in Baton Rouge and vicinity for the Louisiana Folklife Program.

Sharing the Tides: Notes on Community and Culture in Three Oregon Coast Counties

Joseph O’Connell

On the central and northern parts of the Oregon coast, worlds meet—land and sea, work and leisure, old and new. In social and cultural terms, no place evokes the region’s contrasts more than Newport’s historic bayfront. Along a short strip of Bay Boulevard, commercial fishing, ocean science, and tourism intermingle. Visitors can buy taffy and souvenirs, visit the wax museum, or descend to an underwater viewing platform. Yet they are never more than a few doors away from one of several seafood processing plants. On the street outside the plants, cautionary signals from forklift operators blend with the vocalizations of an urban sea lion colony. (These animals are either endearing or aggravating; it depends who you ask.) A few yards farther, homemade signs indicate which boats have fresh catches of albacore tuna or Dungeness crab.

A flier on a Newport pier connects commercial fishers to scientific researchers.

Throughout the region, this intimacy of differing communities is the substance of everyday life. Environmental researchers share space with natural resource industries. Spiritual seekers rub elbows with scrappy entrepreneurs. Cold-water surfers cross paths with razor clam diggers. They may look to the ocean for different things, but they all rely on the same tide tables. Sometimes, even the people who live here seem a bit perplexed by the region’s stranger bedfellows. In a casual conversation at a fabrication shop in Waldport, an independent fisher posits that the region “attracts extremes”—extremes of lifestyle and extremes of political persuasion (he’s a progressive.) But he can’t reflect for long; he’s got hundreds of pounds of freshly-caught tuna in tow, and it’s a hot day.

Amidst this mix, creative traditions are one way that the communities of the coast “talk” about who they are. In the crucible of the modern fishing industry, for instance, people who work together forge an array of hard-won customs: techniques for “hanging gear,” methods of preparing salmon cheeks, convictions about good luck. “Never, ever bring a banana onboard a fishing boat,” warns Florence’s Amber Novelli (if you’ve got a banana on board you won’t catch anything). Such traditions function partly as a running commentary about what defines a group, a place, or its history. It’s a commentary that takes place not just within groups, as it does among fishers, but also between them. In Newport, it’s not uncommon for scientists and fishers to meet over beers, trading jokes and points of view about their shared workplace on the Pacific Ocean. Sara Skamser designs, ties, and modifies nets for clients on both sides of that pub table. On a slow day, she might also improvise a quick rope hanger for a tourist who wanders into her shop with a glass float.

Net maker and designer Sara Skamser pauses by the work in progress at her shop, Foulweather Trawl.


A shrimp net, outfitted with a custom “excluder,” awaits repairs outside Foulweather Trawl on Yaquina Bay in Newport.










Lots of traditions “root” people in this part of the coast, but being rooted means something different in each case. When Highway 101 travelers pull over at Karl Kowalski’s chainsaw carving workshop in Seal Rock, they enter a personal museum.

Second-generation Seal Rock chainsaw carver Karl Kowalski poses beside one of his father’s sculptures.

Karl displays not just the work he has for sale but also carvings and memorabilia from a previous era. He inherited these artifacts from his father, who first established the property as Sea Gulch—a sculpture garden and roadside attraction. The items in Karl’s space reflect an attitude about belonging and tell a bigger story about his place in the life of a family, a town, and a region.

Northeast of Newport on Government Hill in Siletz, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians hosts its annual Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow.

“Fancy” dancers compete in the youth category at the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow.

On the lawn at the center of the Pow-Wow grounds, dancers from numerous tribes don regalia and compete for prize money. One event, the Women’s Basketcap Special, showcases an iconic form of Siletz material culture–traditional hats woven from natural materials. For the Siletz and other indigenous people of the region, cultural traditions like the Pow-Wow take on significance against a long history and display resilience over colonization and its legacies.

Across Oregon coastal communities, people also adapt cultural traditions to respond to contemporary concerns, especially ecological ones. At the Women’s Expression Session on Agate Beach, two surfers dress as sea fowl and perform an original rap about beach stewardship. In the thick of the parade that opens the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow, participants carry signs that protest mismanagement of a sewage spill on the Siletz River. And at Foulweather Trawl in Newport, “trawl techs” apply their tying skills to make nets “fish cleaner” with the addition of modifications that minimize “bycatch”—those fish that fishers don’t intend to catch. Whether it’s surfing, fishing, or regalia-making, longstanding cultural forms have an intimate connection to the natural environment. Such creative traditions also function to defend that environment.

Joe O’Connell has ten years of public folklore experience spanning studies of vernacular music, laborlore, and material culture.  He completed an MA in Folklore at the University of Oregon in 2009, and fieldwork on the Oregon Coast marks his second collaboration with the OFN, this time in Lincoln and Clatsop counties, the coastal section of Lane County, and with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Along with Josephine McRobbie, Joe is a 2019 American Folklife Center Archie Green Fellow. O’Connell and McRobbie have been conducting oral histories with midwives and other birth workers across the state of North Carolina.  Joe is also an active folk-rock music recording artist, making music under the band name Elephant Micah. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Museum of Natural and Cultural History Announces Open Nominations for the 2020 Oregon Stewardship Award

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is now accepting nominations for its third annual Oregon Stewardship Award.

Spearheaded by the museum’s advisory council, the award recognizes an individual or organization that has involved the community in an environmental or cultural project that aligns with the museum’s mission to inspire stewardship of Oregon’s collective past, present and future.

“Oregonians are change makers,” said Ann Craig, director of public programs at the museum.

“Every day, people and organizations across the state are endeavoring to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable Oregon. This award is designed to recognize and celebrate their work.”

The recipient of the award will receive $1,000 and be recognized at an April 3 award reception, in museum publications and on an “Oregon Heroes” display panel in the museum’s Explore Oregon exhibit.

Online nominations for the 2020 award must be submitted by Friday, Jan. 31, and the recipient will be announced March 8. Nomination forms are available on the museum’s website.

Oregon individuals, community groups, nonprofit organizations, K-12 schools and higher education institutions are all eligible nominees, as are national and regional organizations with offices or affiliates in Oregon. Eligible projects are Oregon-based and relate directly to Oregon’s environment or cultural heritage.

To be considered for the 2020 award, projects must have meaningful community impact and be ongoing or completed during the 2019 calendar year.

Past awards have recognized Coos Bay’s Marshfield High School for its stewardship of the historic Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery, and Ontario’s Four Rivers Cultural Center for its Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival, a daylong public celebration of traditional arts and artists in eastern Oregon.

The museum invites groups and individuals to self-nominate. Nominations also will be accepted from third parties wishing to recognize stewardship of Oregon’s environmental or cultural heritage by a group or individual.

Contact: Ann Craig, Museum of Natural and Cultural History, 541-346-3116, acraig@uoregon.edu    

About the Museum: The Museum of Natural and Cultural History enhances knowledge of Earth’s environments and cultures, inspiring stewardship of our collective past, present, and future. A center of interdisciplinary research, education, and exhibition, the museum serves the State of Oregon, the University of Oregon, Native American Tribes, the research community, K-12 students and teachers, and the wider public in Oregon and beyond. The museum annually welcomes more than 30,000 visitors and serves another 20,000 Oregonians through its statewide outreach programs. A winner of the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, distinguishing it as one of the very best in the nation.