Indigenous Voices at the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival

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 will have 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, Suquammish, 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.

At the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival, the Circle of Indigenous Peoples Celebration will take place Sunday, May 28 and Monday, May 29, at the site of the John Williams Memorial Totem Pole, next to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). Both days, 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. Sunday at the Northwest Folklife Festival will begin with an opening prayer and blessings at 10:00am by the Native elders, and will run until 7:00pm, featuring individual performances and performances from community organizations, including Aztec dancers, Native youth theater group Red Eagle Soaring, the Métis Nation, Vasa Samoan Dancers, Muckleshoot Canoe Family, and additional performances from artists like Peter Ali, Matt Remle, Randall Kimball, Paul Cheokten Wagner, and more. On Monday at the Northwest Folklife Festival, after opening prayer at 9:00am and individual performances until noon, there will be a Grant Entry for the veterans, a celebration of Memorial Day, starting at 1:00pm. This will be followed by a Grand Entry, including a traditional pow-wow at 4:00pm on Monday.

“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, Program 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 kind 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 NW 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.”

In addition to Northwest Folklife’s work with the Circle of Indigenous People, there will be a number of other key events at the 2017 Northwest Folklife Festival that will feature Native and Indigenous communities.
Circle of Indigenous Peoples Showcase – Saturday, May 27, from 7:00-10:00pm at the Exhibition Hall

This will be a showcase of Northwest Coast and Plains Native American dance traditions, featuring performers from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Khu.éex’ – Friday, May 26 from 8:30pm-9:05pm on the Mural Amphitheatre

This visionary band is led by Seattle visual artist Preston Singletary (Tlingit). Singletary formed the band with another NW visionary, Bernie Worrell of Parliament Funkadelic, though Worrell sadly passed away in 2016. Khu.éex is a Native-led funk and spaced-out blues band with key members of the NW Native community.

4th World Lab Fellows Bracken Hanuse Corlett and Amanda Strong – Sunday, May 28 from 5:00pm – 7:00PM

Join filmmakers Bracken Hanuse Corlett and Amanda Strong, as they discuss and screen a retrospective of their animation work. These filmmakers hail from the 4th World Lab Fellowship program organized by SIFF and Longhouse media.

Posted in Northwest Folklife Festival.