For decades, the Northwest Folklife Festival has been a key event bringing together indigenous and Native voices in the Pacific Northwest. From the long-standing participation of the Hawaiian community, to the 2008 Cultural Focus on Urban Indians (a program created by Native communities based in Seattle and the Northwest), and the recent Memorial Day pow-wow programming, the Festival has worked directly with Native communities to showcase the traditional arts and culture of the region. In 2017, the Northwest Folklife Festival had unprecedented participation from Northwest Native communities, in part through Northwest Folklife’s continuing and expanded partnership with the Circle of Indigenous Peoples. The Circle of Indigenous Peoples is based in the rich collective of Native tribal members in Seattle and Washington State, with a goal to broaden the reach to other Native and First Nation communities in the Pacific Northwest. Tribes represented in the current organization include Coastal Nations: Haida, Tlingit, Muckleshoot, Port Gamble S’klallam, Chehalis Confederated, Chinook, Lummi, Makah, Nisqually, Suquamish, Puyallup, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, Grande Ronde, Cowlitz; and other nations such as Standing Rock Sioux, Eastern Shoshone, Nez Perce, Coeur D’Alene, Cherokee, Navajo, Chippewa, and many more. The organization was created to create further awareness of Native traditions and to increase attendance, build cross-cultural awareness, healing, identity and respectful understanding.
The Circle of Indigenous Peoples Celebration will take place at the Northwest Folklife Festival, at the site of the John Williams Memorial Totem Pole, next to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The site will play host to artists, performers, dancers, and culture bearers with the intention of directly involving non-Native audiences in cultural welcoming, education, and a celebration of Native cultures.
“This is a great opportunity for indigenous people to share their culture and their celebrations with those who might not be familiar,” says organizer John Romero. “It’s just amazing how many people come to Folklife who have never seen a Native American celebration or powwow before in their life. These are people from overseas, from other areas of the US, from all over the Northwest, who don’t usually get an opportunity to involve themselves in Native culture. Our goal with the Circle of Indigenous Peoples is to provide a venue that can be shared with people outside of the Native American community in order to share our culture. The goal is also to bring us together! We need this unity as a nation.”
“It’s been an honor to work with the Circle of Indigenous Peoples,” says Kelli Faryar, Executive Artistic Director for Northwest Folklife. “We’ve been building these connections over the past few years, and it’s been a powerful experience to see how this work brings together the many different Indigenous communities that live in the Pacific Northwest. Earlier this year, we hosted our Community Coordinators meeting at the Duwamish Longhouse, featuring a traditional Duwamish storyteller and culture-bearer, so many of our Community Coordinators got to meet and interact with the organizers of the Circle of Indigenous Peoples. These kinds of cross-cultural connections strengthen our community and give us all new perspectives for our work.”
The organizing committee for the Circle of Indigenous Peoples Celebration consists of Jay Hollingsworth (Mohegan), Kyle Schierbeck (Standing Rock Sioux), George Farrell (Lakota Sioux), Ixtli Whitehawk (Aztec), Brad Mix (Métis), and John Romero (Eastern Shoshone).
“Working with the Northwest Folklife folks has been extremely rewarding,” says organizer Jay Hollingsworth. “Their openness and respect for culture has given us a great opportunity to share our culture with the entire community. I believe we have built a long lasting relationship well into the future.”