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.”

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

A McKenzie River Legend

by Bruno Seraphin, Folklore Graduate Student

McKenzie River Fishing Guide and storyteller Robin Alexander relayed this story to me. The central character here is a fellow who lived by the McKenzie in the late 1800’s and claimed to be the “real” Huckleberry Finn from Mark Twain’s famous book. There are a number of outlandish stories about this eccentric man. This one tells how “Finn Rock” came to be so named.

Robin Alexander:

“He claimed that the rock was laying sideways in the wagon road. And he tied a whole bunch of cables and ropes to it, and he took a mule train across the river. And what he did was, he took those mules and pulled that rock up straight off the wagon road and stood it up right, where it exists now in the river.

And what happened was, the mules, right before it could go completely up straight, the mules were stopped because they were up against the mountain. So, what he had to do was pour water on the leather strappings. And from the sun, the leather dried and drew that rock up the rest of the way straight where it wouldn’t fall back, and that’s where it is today.

And there’s always a saying, if you look real close you can find cable marks on that rock. So, anybody that wants to can go look for those.”

Two Fisher Poets in Eugene

by Adrienne Decker, Folklore Graduate Student

On May Day, two fisherpoets arrived in Eugene to introduce our community to songs, stories, and poems about the lives of the men and women working in the commercial fishing industry. Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, both organizers of the annual FisherPoets Gathering, lead a poetry workshop and evening of performance at Cozmic Pizza. During this fundraiser for the Oregon Folklife Network, Jon and Jay performed a variety of songs for the crowd, trading jokes and sharing anecdotes with the enthusiastic crowd of community members, folklorists, and family and friends.

The following day, the duo brought their stories to the Many Nations Longhouse for a more informal workshop with University of Oregon students. The two shared many of their poems and stories but also engaged in a dialogue about the struggles and joys of commercial fishing.

Jon emphasized the value of the self-reliant fisherman lifestyle and the creativity of the fishing community. He shared many stories about his sons and their forays into the trade, affirming that fishing is as much about family as it is the love of the work and the sea.  This vibrant community has found creative expression through the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon, a three-day event that includes performances, storytelling, and many reunions of old friends. Having served as organizers for the event for over a decade, Jon and Jay noted that the stories and experiences shared at the Gathering—sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, but always passionately articulated—are highly inspirational and always push them to become better writers and performers. For those interested in the unique communities of the Pacific Northwest as well as lovers of a tale well told, fisher poetry offers much to learn and appreciate.

Words Washed in with the Tide: FisherPoet Fieldwork in Port Townsend

by Julie Meyer, Folklore Graduate Student

On a drizzly Thursday afternoon in March, I threw my camping gear into my car and headed north towards Port Townsend, Washington, with my dog and my recorder in tow. During the long car ride I could feel the adrenaline of conducting my first solo fieldwork expedition motivating me.Only a month earlier I had been in Astoria, Oregon, attending the annual FisherPoets Gathering as a student fieldworker representing the Oregon Folklife Network. After building rapport with a few of the women FisherPoets in Astoria, I was invited to attend the She Tells Sea Tales event in Port Townsend, Washington. This event was hosted in support of the Girls Boat Project, an organization created to support the young women of the community in their pursuit of the seas.

As the event kicked off to a start in the Northwest Maritime Center, I was able to hear sea shanties sung, stories told, poetry read, and prose performed. The range of performances included both original folk art and traditional folklore from women and girls from across the Pacific Northwest.

The day after the event I was able to meet with Erin Friestad for an hour long interview in a café in the city center, and she shared with me stories of her time working at sea as well as her work as a poet. While I had originally hoped to pull more interviews from my time in Port Townsend, I was able to establish deeper relationships with the fisherwomen I have come to admire for their strength and perseverance.

OFN Represents at Western States Folklore Conferences

Oregon Folklife Network staff members attended concurrent conferences from April 10-13: The Western States Folklore Society Conference and the Association of Western States Folklorists Conference. Both conferences this year were held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

OFN Graduate Research Fellow (GRF) Em Knott, along with fellow graduate students Adrienne Decker and Julie Meyer, spoke about the 2014 FisherPoets Gathering. GRF Bruno Seraphin presented a paper and some film clips from his work with the Green Grass Cloggers of Western North Carolina.

Program Manager Emily West Afanador facilitated working sessions at the Association of Western States Folklorists meeting. Thanks to supplemental funding from WESTAF, OFN sent two additional professionals emerging in the field of folklore: Lyle Murphy and Maya Muñoz-Tobón, both recent graduates from University of Oregon’s Folklore program and Arts and Administration program respectively.

The conferences were fantastic; we feel honored to be among such an excellent community of Western States folklorists!

McKenzie River Folklife

The McKenzie River Guides Association hosted a dutch oven cook-off on April 19th. The annual event happens just before the beginning of guiding season, and started years ago as a way for all the guides to come together to get their boats inspected.  Over the years the tradition evolved into a fun (and delicious) community event that shows off the guides’ cooking expertise.

Wooden Boat Festival
On April 26th, the McKenzie River Guide community held its 9th annual Wooden Boat Festival at Eagle Rock Lodge, in Vida, “celebrating the history, the form and the function of the wooden white water boat that was invented here on McKenzie River.”

Don’t Miss Fisher Poetry in Eugene!

Oregon Folklife Network presents an interactive arts workshop followed by an evening of entertainment with Fisher Poets, Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, at Cozmic Pizza in Eugene on Thursday, May 1. Workshop at 4; Performance at 7pm.

Come learn more about one of Oregon’s unique occupations on May 1, and celebrate May Day – a traditional labor holiday! A 4pm workshop on poetry writing and recitation is appropriate for both young and adult writers of all experience levels.  The 7pm performance brings the poetry to life with readings, music, jokes, and spoken word.

Fisher Poetry is part of Oregon’s cultural and occupational folklife. An art form unique to commercial fishermen (and women – who incidentally prefer the same name), Fisher Poets express and share their exciting, dangerous, and sublime experiences on the sea through poems and songs.

John and Jay will also be telling stories and performing at the Longhouse of Many Nations on the University of Oregon Campus on Friday, May 2nd. University students are especially encouraged to attend!

Broderick and Speakman, organizers of the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria each year, recite and sing about the dangers of their work, the beauty of a livelihood embedded in nature, and the values they share by growing up amidst small family businesses.  While enjoying their lyrical stories, you’ll learn about their unique skills and laugh at the humor they bring to bizarre challenges that come with enduring impossibly long hours, like sleeping in full rubber attire.
Tickets for each event will be available at the door for sliding scale fee ($3-$20), and will help sustain folklife programming in our state. 

Save the Dates:

Thursday, May 1st at Cozmic Pizza:
Music and Poetry Performance: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Writing Workshop: 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Friday, May 2nd at the U. of O. Longhouse:
Performances, conversations, and oral history of the FisherPoets Gathering: 12:00 – 2:00 pm

Check out this video of John and Jay!

Japan Nite Obon Festival in Ontario, Oregon

by Douglas Manger, contracted folklorist

More results from our ongoing Survey of Oregon’s Southern counties!Ontario, Oregon has an unusually high concentration of Japanese-Americans. During WWII, some of the Japanese and Japanese Americans placed in the internment camps were released to work the agricultural harvests. That’s how many came to the Ontario area. Key Ontario leaders welcomed them, and many elected to stay.

Ontario is home to the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple, at one time the second largest Buddhist temple in the Northwest. On June 29th of 2013, the temple held its 67th annual Japan Nite Obon Festival, a celebration of culture, sharing, and understanding. The event features traditional Japanese food, (Obari) folk dance, music, and dress. Madame Kanriye Fujima, now retired, taught traditional Japanese art forms in Ontario for many years. She has been an integral part of the Obon Festival since its beginnings. Sangha Taiko, a Japanese American drum ensemble sponsored by the temple, performs each year at the festival. Resident minister Reverend Joshin Dennis Fujimoto and Michelle Sadamori are lead members of the group. Janet Komoto heads Kawa Taiko, Ontario’s other Japanese drum ensemble. Komoto is of Chinese descent. She has been active with the Kawa Taiko group for over a decade.