For decades, Northwest Folklife has been key in bringing together indigenous and Native 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 programming, the festival has worked directly with Native communities to showcase the traditional arts and culture of the region. Since 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 takes place at the Northwest Folklife Festival, at at Broad Street Lawn, next to the site of the John Williams Memorial Totem Pole. The site plays 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. 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.John Romero, Organizer
“It’s been an honor to work with the Circle of Indigenous Peoples Committee,” says Kelli Faryar, Executive Artistic Director for Northwest Folklife. “It’s been a powerful experience to see how this gathering brings together the many different Indigenous communities that live in the Pacific Northwest. This cross-cultural connection strengthens our community and honors that we are all on Indigenous land.”
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), John Romero (Eastern Shoshone), and Katie King (representing the Duwamish Tribe).
Working with the Northwest Folklife folks has been extremely rewarding. Their openness and respect for culture have given us a great opportunity to share our culture with the entire community. I believe we have to build a long-lasting relationship well into the future.Jay Hollingsworth, Organizer