This article was originally published in the Seattle Globalist and has been reprinted with permission.
by Reagan Jackson
As a neighborhood between South Seattle’s Columbia City and Rainier Beach, Hillman City has hardly garnered the reputation of being a hotbed for community in the recent past. But change is coming, and with it, new initiatives, businesses and families that are slowly changing the face of the neighborhood. Continue reading “Young Families” De-gentrifying South Seattle?→
Families gathered for “Latino Family Night” at Graham Hill Elementary last week. During the evening, parents advocated for their children’s education and listened to Mrs. Jeri Gonzales Abrams, an immigration lawyer, who presented critical information on Obama’s new executive actions Continue reading South Seattle Latino Community Dormant No More→
In a lifetime spent unearthing stories from history’s cellar as an award winning filmmaker, Sandra Osawa has discovered her fair share of untidy portions of the past that most would sooner forget. Osawa, however, has made it her mission to shed ample amounts of daylight on the travesties of yesterday and their lingering residue found in our present times.
The local documentarian brings her latest work Princess Angeline- which details the displacement and plight of the Duwamish tribe through the eyes of Chief Seattle’s daughter- to Beacon Hill’s Meaningful Movies next Friday. Osawa, whose films primarily deal with Native American culture, is hoping the screening will inform South Seattleites about the true origins of the land they now occupy.
Emerald: What was it about the saga of the Duwamish Tribe that intrigued you enough to make this film with Princess Angeline as the centerpiece?
Sandra Osawa: I had already been visiting a lot of Indian communities and doing a lot of Indian stories. Here in Seattle I started to think about the lack of visibility of the local tribe, and how no one really spoke about them. In fact you don’t see anything that identifies that this was once their land. On many reservations and tribes you visit, you will see immediate evidence of there being Indians nearby, or some facts of knowledge of who these people were, but not in Seattle. I was just talking about how funny it is that even the totem poles they have here in the city are from another tribe and another area. So with this film we thought we should do something local. The more we got into it, the more we found out that this was a very big story that had national implications because there are probably currently over 500 tribes that are unrecognized by the Federal Government.
The Duwamish is just one example of a tribe that has been legislated out of existence and ignored for who they are. That’s what got us in, and what made us stay was that the more we got into it the more we saw that this story had wide implications. Here this city is named after Chief Seattle but his tribe isn’t even recognized.
Emerald: What surprises did you encountered while making this documentary and what surprises do you think those who watch it- who may only have a cursory knowledge of Chief Seattle and the Duwamish- are in store for?
Osawa: I think there are a lot of surprises because the documentary covers a lot of early history. I think what surprised me most was that the City of Seattle actually had an ordinance-the fifth one the city ever passed- that banned all Indians from the city in 1865. This was just 10 years after the US Government signed a treaty with the Duwamish promising them a reservation of their own. I think people are really going to be jolted by that because we don’t really hear any mention of that today. How the early people were treated is not taught in our schools.
The other aspect was just how much the city was transformed and grew at the expense of the Duwamish people.You learn a lot about how the Black River was basically wiped out. The river was extremely important to the Duwamish for food and survival. So I think in looking over the early history, people will start to get a good idea of some of the truth of what really happened to the native people here. But, it’s not just the past, I think people are going to learn some interesting things about the present predicament of the Duwamish.
Emerald: Displacement is one of the main currents that runs through this film. That’s a theme very familiar to people who live in the south end of Seattle in the form of gentrification. Obviously your story deals with more forceful and coercive means in which people were extracted from their homeland, but are there any similarities you gleaned from what transpired with the Duwamish and what is currently happening in Seattle’s south end?
Osawa: Yes, I think a lot of it is that we don’t have any political power at all. Certainly the poor and minorities don’t, similar to the Duwamish. They say you can tell a lot from watching how a society treats the least of those amongst it because that’s how they might end up treating you. You have to be careful of how society treats those without power because that’s the true test of a society, and whether you’re going to be a great society or a great civilization or not. So that’s the similarity I would see. It remains very difficult for those without power to obtain it, even if you have a great spokesperson like Chief Seattle.
One thing many people don’t know is that there is a another speech that Chief Seattle wrote, not the,“We are all brothers after all” speech, but one of the last speeches he gave before his death. It was a plea for land for the Duwamish people because they were starving and had actually been fighting for land that was rightfully theirs ever since they signed the treaty with the Federal Government.
Emerald: Do you think the history of how the city of Seattle came into being has fallen victim to revisionism?
Osawa: Yes, I think that this story has not been told. When we first decided to do this film, we were focused on the postcards of Princess Angeline. She became somewhat of a collector’s item on spoons, plates, etc, but we wanted to look beyond that. We wanted to look beyond those souvenir items and ask, “Well what is the story of this person?” and “Why didn’t she want to leave Seattle even though she was ordered to?” So, that really becomes the story along with presenting a story about people who are takers. They wanted to take the name of Chief Seattle but they didn’t have the decency to recognize his tribe as a people, or to treat them as human beings.
This story is never told. My kids went to school in Seattle and they didn’t learn anything about the local tribe or any Indian history in general. I think that this is a spotlight on it, and I think it’s better for us as a society to look at reality and see history as it was, not as we would wallpaper it over and want it to be because it makes us stronger people when we grapple with reality. If we know the past we’re better able to solve the problems of the present and the future.
Emerald: Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies’ intention is for people to actively engage in conversation around the ideas put forth by a film. What conversations are you hoping ensue after the screening?
Osawa: We actually showed the film at the Meaningful Movies in West Seattle and the organizers there had the idea of making postcards available to send to President Obama that asked him to recognize the tribe by Executive Order before he leaves office. The Duwamish was actually recognized during the end of the Clinton years, but there was a political reversal when George W Bush came into office. There’s a legal challenge that is currently pending as the tribe has said there is no basis for the reversal. So, I’m hoping the conversation will lead to direct action like that because the tribe has been tangled up in so much bureaucracy in general that they have had a difficult struggle for decades- really since the treaty was signed.
The Duwamish have recently purchased their own land after not having any for so long- a few acres in West Seattle- and are attempting to forge ahead, but I think the question turns to what can local people do to support the tribe’s fight for federal recognition. I think that would be a good thing. We’ll try to have some possible answers on hand.
Sandra Osawa will be in attendance on Friday, November 21st as Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies presents Princess Angeline. The screening begins at 7:00pm and will take place at the Garden House: 2336 15th Avenue South.
Princess Angeline will also be screened on Feb 28th at the Northwest Film Forum. Find out more here.
Artist Emily Taibleson went away to find her way back home. Her work currently on display at the Hillman City Collaboratory, a show entitled “Over the Stones on the Edge of a Bluff” (also the title of a compilation of poems she published in college), is a reflection of her personal journey as well as part of a larger community narrative. The story arc of the show follows Emily’s efforts to communicate her impressions and experiences on paper and canvas (and, in one piece that stayed with me, on dense burlap due to running out of canvas mid way through). Some pieces evoke the Northwest with color and texture, some reflect struggle and isolation in stark black and white. Throughout the show runs an underlying theme of connection and community.
One of Emily’s first jobs upon returning to the NW, after completing a rigorous arts program on the East coast, was a mural project intended as a vehicle to express the voices and stories of a group of at risk youth. In projects like this she acted as the framework within which the young artists learned to become the narrators of their own tale. This community method of storytelling is again reflected in the Columbia City Mural Project, a large, vibrant mural on the west side of Rainier Ave S. (in the Hummingbird parking lot). A powerful piece, the mural project was a community effort weaving together a wide spectrum of voices. Emily was tasked with representing these contributors’ intimate stories and she did so with respect and consideration, feeling honored to represent these stories within the community. These projects highlighted for her what a privilege it is to have paint or canvas, to have a space to create or to display one’s work. These things are ‘not a given’ despite what one might believe after being ensconced in an academic environment focused solely on creating art. The Collaboratory show in some ways reflects this change in her personal perspective, understanding the reality of privilege against the backdrop of being an artist.
Emily shared a sense of unburdening herself with this show, building off of the lessons she has learned up to now with an intention to re-focus and start fresh. Letting go of expectations, her own as well as the “industry’s”, has lead her to this jumping off place. The next chapter, blank canvas, awaits.
South Seattle – This Saturday, September 13th, residents of South Seattle will be be able to experience the majestic culture of Japan first hand without stepping one foot outside the southern boundaries of the 206.
SEEDArts, the arts and cultural division of South East Effective Development, is presenting the second installment of their Arts Gumbo series, this one featuring music, dancing and food from Japanese Culture.
The event will take place at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center and will kick off at 6pm with the performance group Mako & Munjuru, who will be showcasing the music and dance of Okinawa and Japan. Using the Okinawan lute, zither, taiko drums and voice, they will combine elegant melodies, folk tales and sophisticated classic tunes to present traditional “island songs”.
Munjuru (which means straw hat) is comprised of three musicians: Mako on vocals & sanshin; Sadayo on kutu; Noriko on taiko; and two dancers Takako and Hitomi.
After the performance, the audience will be treated to a traditional Japanese dinner cooked earlier in the day by Community Kitchens Northwest and local volunteers.
After dining, audience members can participate in a Bon dance workshop. Bon Odori are folk dances traditionally performed during Obon, a Japanese summer festival, to music that includes the steady beat of a taiko. The taiko sits on a raised platform, or a yagura, and musicians use bachi, or drumsticks, on the taiko, to keep time for the Bon dancers. The guiding purpose of Bon Odori is to set aside the ego through unselfconscious dancing.
“With this area being such a diverse place, we feel the the Arts Gumbo series is a wonderful opportunity for the community to engage with, and learn directly from, the various cultures that populate the South Seattle area.” Said Jerri Plumridge, SEEDArts Director.
I had only been to Bumbershoot a smattering of times over the past few years, and each time had felt vaguely indifferent to the festival as a whole. Mediocre music, moderately priced tickets, and the same old street vendors as were prominent at every Seattle street fair, from University District to Ballard and back again. I walked in this past Saturday, therefore, with mixed expectations.
I was greeted by a very friendly press room, complete with bagels, and after a brief stop, I was on my way into the festival. The eclectic mix of street fair and festival I actually found myself enjoying – if ever there was a gap in the schedule of artists I wanted to see, it was comforting to know that I could at least peruse the wide array of jewelry, merchandise, and fair food available.
The first artist I saw was Dude York, playing inside the Seattle Center. With a subtle flash of my press pass, I was in. However, the queue of would-be attendees wasn’t so lucky. I immediately noticed the space left in the venue – with a little squeezing, all 25 people might have fit. Though the space felt open and uncrowded, for the people who had paid to get into a festival that they were unable to see music at, it was unfortunate. The same held true for many other events – Bill Nye was a wonderful show, but for the line out the door, and other comedy shows were sold out from the start of the day. For those who had come to see specific shows, they may have felt that their tickets had been wasted.
On the whole, the artists we saw were enjoyable. Dude York was some very mediocre punk rock – they channeled the Pixies, but with worse songwriting. However, Big Freedia was perfect in all her sassy glory – her shouted encouragement at twerking women were perfect, and her music spot-on. Mac DeMarco was fun country rock in all of its trucker hat, twangy glory, with some decent songwriting along with charming band members to boot.
Panic! At the Disco was, as usual, awful (why do people like these guys?), but the lead singer partially redeemed himself with one hell of a back flip. Bill Nye took me back to the 90s, again making me overly interested in science – in this instance, sun dials (did you know there’s one on Mars?). Elvis Costello was worth it for sheer celebrity viewing, though his guitar seemed to be about as big as he was, and Polica was hauntingly beautiful in its synth-pop meets soulful singer manner. The award for kick-ass show, however, went to Walk the Moon, whose extremely enthusiastic young lead singer and catchy songs like “Shut Up and Dance With Me” led everyone in the crowd to a dancing, singing, shaking high.
I left feeling like I had gotten my share of good music at a venue that, for downtown Seattle, did a pretty good job of hosting these people. Even the visual art was unique, and provided a welcome break from the madness. Photographs from the 1960s were compelling, and especially enjoyable were the playable video games, which visualized sound in a beautiful way.
All in all, Bumbershoot lived up to its reputation, and even surpassed it. Its idiosyncratic mixture of festival and Seattle street fair made it appealing, and the prevalence of decent artists made the music worthwhile. Most of all, I appreciated the effort that was made to appeal to a wide range of audiences. From Elvis Costello to Big Freedia to Panic! At the Disco to Wu Tang Clan, Bumbershoot on Saturday alone appealed to at least four demographics. Despite the overcrowding and the terrible quality of the maps, I found myself having a lovely time, and experiencing a wide array of artists that I typically wouldn’t have seen at a music festival.
The bottom line: Ultimately, Bumbershoot is what you make it. Next year, buy a ticket for one day, or two, depending on who’s playing, but rest assured that you’ll most definitely find something you like – provided you can get in.
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
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