This year’s 35th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering once again found poets, musicians, gearmakers, and folklorists in Elko, Nevada celebrating and raising awareness about cowboy culture and the rural experience. OFN Associate Director, Emily West Hartlerode, worked managing and hosting stages as contract staff of the Western Folklife Center, reuniting with colleagues from across the west. Among them are a growing number of UO and OFN alum: Bradford McMullen and Jennie Flinspach (OFN graduate employees), Debbie Fant (OFN contract fieldworker), and Amy Mills (UO Folklore graduate), to name a few. On-stage talent from Oregon included first-time participant, singer-songwriter Forrest Van Tuyl of Enterprise, and long-time participant Ross Knox who now hails from Arizona, but grew up ranching in Central Oregon. Personal highlights were stage managing for Colter Wall, Trinity Seely, and Dave Stamey (backstage photos below), and catching up with community scholar, Andy Hedges, whose interviews with cowboy poets and singer-songwriters you can enjoy on his blog.
There is a feeling of homecoming at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering among artists and staff folklorists alike. Thanks to Doug Blandy, director of UO Folklore and Public Culture Program, for sharing this blog post about the event.
Dave Stamey and Emily West Hartlerode, backstage at NCPG 2019
Colter Wall and Emily West Hartlerode, backstage at NCPG 2019
Trinity Seely and Emily West Hartlerode
Returning to work after attending the Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855 Conference, I am newly aware that I am returning to America after visiting the Warm Springs Nation. This sovereign nation that pre-existed the establishment of the United States, holds inherent rights to their lands – including access to millions of acres ceded to the US through the Treaty for usual and customary practices like hunting and gathering. These rights are not only acknowledged, but protected by the Treaty, a nation-to-nation agreement with the same legally and ethically binding strength and significance as other international treaties.
The original document resides in a climate-controlled vault in the National Archives in Washington DC, however it was temporarily on display at the Museum at Warm Springs through Nov 3, 2018. This unique access to the Treaty paralleled the Museum’s celebration of its 25th Anniversary, and spurred tribal leadership to coordinate the Treaty Conference. Many Native and non-native allies came together to better understand the historical context that established the Treaty; to reflect on the growth and development of tribal governance despite the overwhelming loss of language, cultural practices, lands and people; and to imagine and plan for a future beyond surviving, but one of thriving.
Warm Springs Tribal Council member, Valerie Switzler, invited Oregon Folklife Network to interview participants and document their reflections and reactions. Of high importance to her was engaging tribal youth in the process. OFN was honored by the invitation and donated our time in sponsorship of the event. With the help of superintendent Ken Parshall, we reached out to Fieldschool alumni, and Warm Springs sophomores Dylan Heath, Taya Holiday, and Kathryce Danzuka attended on Friday and took leadership roles in running the video camera, asking thoughtful questions, and ensuring that release forms were properly filled and returned. They showed great respect and professionalism, though I was delighted to see them relax into some light-hearted teenager fun after their work was through.
Interviews spanned a variety of perspectives, from Native American Rights Fund lawyer (and former UO Duck) Charles Wilkinson, to elder and language teacher Arlita Rhoan. Incoming Executive Director of the Museum at Warm Springs (and former Poet Laureate) Elizabeth Woody, who expertly coordinated this important event, also provided her reflections for this record, all of which is going back to the Tribal Archives. Their thoughts co-mingle with my own reflections as the days between me and the event grow. I yearn for more time to steep in my feelings and better understand and act on my sense of urgency to respond. But I am back in America now. The prayer songs fade in my ears, but for the people of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the 500+ sovereign nations who permit US activities on the land that has been theirs since time immemorial, those songs resound often and strong.
Every year, folklorists from across the western states reunite at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. OFN Associate Director, Emily Hartlerode, joined colleagues to staff the festival as stage manager and host to cowboy musicians and poets Feb 1-3. This year’s 34th annual festival theme, “Basques & Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of Basin, Range and Beyond,” made the beret, or Basque txapela, as common as the ten-gallon hat. A rich assortment of Basque music, dance, language, and rhymes came gathering from near as Elko and far as Spain’s Basque Country. Oregonians performing at the Gathering included photographer Mary Williams Hyde (Klamath Falls), poet Annie Mackenzie (Jordan Valley), and musicians Caleb Klauder Country Band (Portland) who played the famous Saturday Night Dance.
Mary Williams Hyde, whose family has been ranching in Klamath Falls since 1911, shared an hour of her photo slides in a collection called “Images of the Buckaroo: On the Ranch and in the Arena.” Her documentation of this culture specializes in the rare million+ acre ranch of the Great Basin, like Oregon’s ZX Ranch in Paisley.
Annie Mackenzie was a fresh new voice in Elko, attending her first Gathering as a recipient of the Rod McQueary & Sue Wallis Scholarship. This fund, established by an anonymous donor in memory of two of the Gathering’s earliest poets, brings emerging poets, writers and reciters to the Gathering. OFN looks forward to adding to our artist roster Ms. Mackenzie, who writes thoughtful and humorist poetry of her experiences on her family’s fourth-generation ranch in southeast Oregon.
Interested in performing or exhibiting at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering? Get in touch with OFN, or watch the NCPG website where applications for 2019 will be posted soon!