OFN at Confluence “Day of Sharing”

By Adrienne Decker, OFN Assistant Folklorist
On November 1, the Oregon Folklife Network joined Confluence for a “Day of Sharing” at Fort Vancouver. Confluence is a multi-year endeavor to complete public art installations     at significant points along the Columbia River, a collaboration between Pacific Northwest tribes, renowned artist Maya Lin, civic groups from Washington and Oregon, and other Northwest artists. The Day of Sharing offered a unique opportunity for native teaching artists to share their traditional art forms and stories with public school teachers to encourage classroom participation in Confluence’s “Gifts from our Ancestors” program. The Oregon Folklife Network’s participation was provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, which awarded OFN funding to document the cultural traditions in the Columbia River Gorge region and to partner with the Confluence Project to foster collaborations between traditional artists and educators.

Lindsey Howtopat (Yakama) shares basket making techniques with teachers.

(Lindsey Howtopat (Yakama) shares basket making techniques with teachers.)

“Gifts” is a collaborative program between K12 schools and indigenous artists from both sides of the Columbia River. The program engages students and teachers in experiential learning through native arts, promoting interdisciplinary curricula with an emphasis on cultural and ecological stewardship. This year’s Day of Sharing featured cultural artists and tradition keepers Lillian Pitt (Warm Springs), Ed Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock), Toma Villa (Yakama), Lindsey Howtopat (Yakama), Patricia Whitefoot (Yakama), Lavina Wilkins (Yakama), and Joann Smith (Warm Springs).

Oregon Folklife Network joined new site partners at the meeting, including the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, National Park Service, and Washington State Parks, for one-on-one interaction between artists and organizers. The meet-up sparked new ideas for further collaborations and engagement at the Confluence commemorative sites along the Columbia that highlight indigenous history and social justice. Colin Fogarty, Executive Director, offered valuable insight on several new Confluence initiatives that will continue to foster connection to place through arts education, including a call for “focus artist ” proposals that center on social science, social justice, or art projects.

Programming ideas for the Celilo Falls site became a major topic of discussion. Celilo Park, set to open in Fall 2016, will recognize the pivotal role that Celilo played as the primary Northwest destination for indigenous salmon fishing, trade, and gatherings for thousands of years. The Day of Sharing offered Oregon and Washington teachers the chance to listen to artists and discuss ways to integrate indigenous knowledge of environmental science, land and water management, and sustainable resource stewardship while teaching culturally inclusive histories in the classroom.

Celilo Falls was the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America until 1957, when the ancient falls were flooded by the US government’s construction of The Dalles Dam. Several teachers want to know how to broach this highly sensitive subject with their students, both native and non-native, whose families hold living memories of the personal and political struggle that transformed this once-thriving, thousands of years old sacred gathering site into a hydroelectric powerhouse; the clashing cultural values still resonate in nearby communities today. In response, renowned native artist Lillian Pitt and Warm Springs elder Joann Smith led a discussion of the important – and often misunderstood – sociopolitical issue of tribal sovereignty. They spoke about sovereignty in relationship to history, as well as contemporary traditional arts and cultural practices, asserting that younger generations benefit from the a pedagogical approach that integrates ancient wisdom with Common Core educational standards. The result is a “groundedness” in education that cultivates a strong sense of place, history, and culture. Confluence is invested in catalyzing discussions like these as necessary to promoting connection across cultural groups, between tribes, and among organizations and individuals dedicated to the well-being of all Columbia River communities. This year’s Day of Sharing ended with artist demonstrations and marks a promising start for future collaborations.

Ed Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock) sharing stories with Confluence teachers.

Ed Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock) sharing stories with Confluence teachers. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Decker.

EMU Tribal Flag Raising

By Nikki Silvestrini

In late September, a flag raising ceremony at the EMU amphitheater saw the flags of Oregon’s Nine Confederated Tribes go up. I sat down with Gordon Bettles, the Many Nations Longhouse Steward, to follow-up on the project. The flag raising was a student driven project that started two and half years ago when Famery Yang, Orion Falvey, Hannah Mixon-Gilliam, Michael Johnson, Tucker Lokendah and Tetsuya Mishagwho – students at the Lundquist College of Business – came together to increase tribal visibility on the UO campus. This student group collaborated with the Many Nations Longhouse, the Native American Student Union, and the Native American Law School Student Association to make the project a reality. Student leaders Falvey and Mixon-Gilliam stayed with the project from beginning to end. Despite some struggles with time constraints and bureaucratic regulations the students involved have left something lasting. Bettles says, “The Native American students that have gone and seen them or participated are very empowered to see a Native American presence on campus.”

What was Bettles’ favorite part? “Seeing my flag go up…. on equal footing with the other tribes…. No other people in the state of Oregon have the status that we do as Oregon’s first inhabitants and that sets us apart and makes us unique but it also shows that no matter is thrown at us we have the will to survive as a people.”

It is Gordon’s hope that UO will inspire other universities across the nation to represent their local tribes. “Being first in the Pac-12 means a lot. We should worry about our own neighborhoods first…. Let’s influence them and see what their response is going to be,” says Bettles. It might not look the same in each state. Bettles acknowledges that not every campus has a central location like the EMU to display tribal flags like, but the recognition of tribal nations is a step in the right direction.

The flags that now fly over the EMU will be part of an ongoing project. Some of the current flags that fly above the EMU are indoor flags and are waiting to be replaced with sturdier outdoor flags. “That’s called learning by doing and that’s further strengthens our relationships with the tribes because we had to get permission from them to order their own flags. The project is by no means finished and nor will it ever be.” Bettles hopes that with the funding they raised for the project there will be enough left over to place a kiosk in the UO Fishbowl detailing the project and each tribe’s history.

Ultimately, the collaborative effort of the students involved in the flag-raising project has created a legacy. Bettles said “I can see the residual effects it’s going to have on the students over a long period of time and hopefully every one of them will get a chance to slow down, take a look up, see the flags, and look at the base and start becoming interested in Oregon’s first inhabitants.”

Documenting Tradition in Klamath and Lake Counties

Documenting Tradition in Klamath and Lake Counties
By LuAnne Kozma, contract folklorist, Southern Oregon Folklife Survey, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

I returned to southern Oregon for the Oregon Folklife Network’s Southern Oregon Folklife Survey and traveled the high desert, along Lake Klamath, and in the downtowns and storefronts of Klamath, Lakeview and other smaller places on the map, always meeting interesting and talented people.

Meats and outdoor cookery seem to go together here, with the Lakeview Locker providing sausages, smoked meats and fresh cuts. Meals cooked over an open fire by dutch oven cooks Patty and Keith Barnhart are the special attraction of  their Willow Springs Guest Ranch outside of Lakeview. Longtime horsepeople, the Barnharts began dutch oven cooking over 25 years ago, sharing their culinary talent with friends on trail rides, which eventually led to their home-based business.

Traditional arts are the basis of several other occupations in Lake County, such as saddlemaking, rawhide braiding, leatherwork, and silversmithing. Well known in western art circles, Ricarda McCleary Clause, of Lakeview, has been silversmithing for decades, making bits and spurs, western silver jewelry and belt buckles. Her work has been noted by the Western Folklife Center and public television, and she is appreciated locally as well. Two Lake County saddlemakers were a part of the survey–Len “Peanut” Babb III, from a three-generation saddlemaking family and newer resident Mario Hanel, originally from Sublimity, who has been building western “California” style saddles for over 10 years. Husband and wife team Bill and Teresa Black, from Plush, work together in their backyard workshop full time making western gear, Bill making hackamores and horsehair stitched items and Teresa on leather goods, while learning the horsehair hitching from Bill. Another horsehair hitching artist is Becky Tocol, also president of the Christmas Valley Chamber of Commerce. Becky worked on ranches and studied the art with other horse hair hitchers, and has made thousands of beautiful horsehair stitched items such as quirts and stampede string lanyards.

Old-Time Fiddle music is alive and well in both Klamath and Lake counties, with Phil Fry making fiddles and keeping the local jams going there with wife Sheila, and the McLain family of Lakeview. Old Time fiddle monthly jams take place in Lakeview and Klamath and an upcoming regional jamboree in Merrill. Newcomers bring their instruments and are invited to join in the sharing of songs and  tunes, as every musician joins in. RosaLee McLain’s vocals, accompanied by her sons rhythm guitarist Larry McLain and fiddler Terry McLain and joined by others in the group, are an evening not to be missed.

In all, over 60 individuals were documented in 39 recordings and about 2,000 photographs. For more information about the project, contact Riki Saltzman and the OFN staff.

All photos by LuAnne Kozma.

Southeastern Oregon Folklife Survey in Malheur County

Southeastern Oregon Folklife Survey in Malheur County
By Douglas Manger, contract folklorist, Southern Oregon Folklife Survey, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts 

Scratch the surface a bit in Malheur County–the second largest in Oregon–and you’ll discover a wealth of folklife traditions, from the buckaroo rodeo, to the Mexican American panaderia (bakery), to Native American sweat lodge rituals.

To experience one of the most revered traditions in the county, look to the 100 year old Vale 4th of July Rodeo. There you are sure to catch Dan and Robin Fulwyler in the team calf roping competition. As horse trainers, rodeo competitors, and helping hands on area ranches at branding time, the Fulwylers’ live and breathe Western ranch traditions passed down through the generations. Not to be outdone, since the age of five their two daughter have rode and roped, as well.

From the Rodriguez Bakery in Nyssa, it’s just a short walk down the street to the home of Eva Castellanoz. Of Aztec/Otomí ancestry, Eva is a practicing curandera, or traditional healer. Eva attends to her patients’ needs in a variety of ways. Medicinal herbs, along with ritual limpias (smudgings or cleansings), are used to address both physical and emotional issues. Words channeled through her by the Holy Spirit help Eva provide wise counseling.

Native American sweat lodges in Ontario? Yes, the tradition lives on with James Dionne, a Chippewa/Cree born on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.One night, in a dream, James was called to lead the sweat lodge circle. “The sweat lodge is a time to honor the Creator,” James explained. In the circle, James serves as the interceder praying that those in the circle will get answers. Apart from overseeing the sweat lodge circles at his home, for six years James served as the volunteer leader of the sweat lodge at the prison outside of Ontario.

With the exception of the Fulwyler image, all photos by Douglas Manger.

Announcement: NEA-funded Folklife Survey of the Columbia River Gorge

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded the Oregon Folklife Network funding to identify and document cultural traditions in the Columbia River Gorge counties of Hood River, Wasco, Jefferson, Sherman, Gilliam, Morrow, and Umatilla as well as with the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

As Oregon’s designated Folk & Traditional Arts Program, the OFN is dedicated to finding excellent performers, demonstrators, and speakers for our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, local festivals, school and library programs in order to preserve and celebrate folkways throughout the state. Folklorists Debbie Fant and Nancy Nusz will be conducting the fieldwork, which involves interviewing and photo documentation. Fant will be in Morrow and Umatilla counties and at the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla starting in September with the Pendleton Round-up and throughout the year until June 2015. Nusz will be in Hood River, Wasco, Jefferson, Sherman, and Gilliam counties and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs from March to June 2015. They will be documenting people involved with traditions related to hunting, farming, commercial, sport, and subsistence fishing, ranching, logging, and mining, as well as river work, trapping, tanning, food preservation, and beekeeping. They are also particularly interested in the ethnic heritage traditions of the regions’ residents, such as Native, Asian, African American, Latino, European, and more.

Nancy Nusz (MA, Western Kentucky University) began her folklore career at the Bureau of Florida Folklife, serving as Folk Arts in Education coordinator & conducting fieldwork (maritime, ethnic urban communities, agriculture, circus). In 1991, she came to the Oregon Folklife Program (previously housed at the Oregon Historical Society), first as coordinator & then director, conducting fieldwork & programming, curating exhibits, & developing curriculum. She has worked for UNESCO and is very excited to be meeting with old friends and interviewing new ones in Oregon’s Gorge region.

Deborah Fant (MA, UT Austin) has been a public folklorist for over 20 years, first as a fieldworker for the Bureau of Florida Folklife. She has worked as the Idaho state folklorist, Manager of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Western Folklife Center), Deputy Director of Northwest Folklife, and now for the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission. Fant has conducted fieldwork, directed festivals, edited publications, and curating exhibits and is thrilled to be investigating traditions in eastern Oregon.

Highlights from Folk Arts in the Parks

In June 2014, six Oregon artists delivered special presentations about the history and cultural significance of their crafts and traditions at state parks across Oregon. Folk Arts in the Parks was sponsored by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) along with the Oregon Folklife Network, the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust. With the help of Parks and OFN staff, this diverse group of artists engaged with audiences through demonstrations, Q&A, and community conversation. Continue reading