This June, in partnership with the Oregon State Parks and the Oregon Arts Commission, the OFN will launch a new series of free public demonstrations, performances, and workshops featuring five celebrated folk and traditional artists in five different state parks across Oregon.
Master folk and traditional artists Mark Ross, Sherry Steele, Pat Courtney Gold, Wilverna Reece, and Esther Stutzman will present a variety of cultural traditions from old time music and fly tying to Wasco sally bag and Warm Springs basket weaving as well as Kalapuya and Coos storytelling. In addition to diversifying park audiences and providng professional development opportunities for Oregon’s tradition bearers, the Arts in Parks program will also strengthen and grow Oregon’s cultural infrastructure and create models for future Arts in Parks collaborations like residencies and summer camps. OFN graduate intern, Karen Agocs, is coordinating the program for its pilot year; she has been assisted by Adrian Engstrom von Alten, OFN undergraduate intern.
Emily West Afanador, OFN Program Manager
Warm Spring tribal members have been preserving their heritage through audio recordings of songs, legends, oral histories, and Tribal Council meetings dating back to the 1950s. With the help of a grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Folklife Network staff Emily West Afanador and Sanna Parikka accompanied University of Oregon Librarian Nathan Georgitis on a trip to Warm Springs Culture Department to work together on making these recordings stable and accessible for future generations. Georgitis installed new digitization equipment and trained Warm Springs staff and volunteers, Valerie Switzler, Dallas Winishut, and Greg Arquette in best practices for sound preservation. Meanwhile, Afanador and Parikka documented the process with photos, video, and interviews. The OFN website will soon feature an online audio digitization training module to make this preservation process available to all Oregonians.
It is a privilege to work with the Warm Springs Culture Department, where projects like this are just one of the many efforts to revitalize cultural knowledge and practices that were forbidden during the boarding school assimilation era just a generation or two ago. Arquette is eager for the knowledge he will gain by listening to tapes of elders; Winishut will build curriculum with the native language recordings for use in Warm Springs language immersion classrooms; and Switzler is confident that the voices of tradition-keepers on those recordings will serve as important cultural role models for today’s tribal youth.
Sanna Parikka, OFN Intern
Kelli Palmer and her apprentice, Joy Ramirez, create American Indian cornhusk baskets and bags by combining the traditional materials, cornhusk and buckskin hide, with colorful rayon raffia ribbon. Traditionally, cornhusk baskets were used for food storage and during wedding trades. Since then, the craft has developed to include purses, side bags, and horse regalia for show.
Cornhusk weaving is a labor-intensive art form. The husk needs to be handled wet, and an experienced weaver can take up to an hour to complete just one row of a basket. Nevertheless, Palmer strives to use real cornhusk as much as possible; she adds colored rayon raffia because its colors last much longer than the hues of colored cornhusk. For her designs, Palmer sometimes pre-draws the pattern, but she also enjoys creating the images as she weaves without a predetermined design in mind. This inspires her to create novel designs, and that that’s how the patterns were traditionally being created, too.
According to Palmer, cornhusk weaving is currently gaining in popularity, and her classes fill up very quickly. She is happy to be able to teach the intricacies of the skill to Ramirez, so that eventually they can start teaching weaving classes together, preserving and passing on this skill for yet another generation.