July 10, 2012

Tribal tourism without cultural explotation

A good article describes how tribes in general and the Quileute in particular "reap the economic benefits of tourism without falling prey to cultural exploitation."

A big old 'Twilight' welcome

Washington's Quileute Tribe has seen a rush of visitors since it became known as the progenitors of the popular vampire series' werewolf pack. How they're dealing with the vampire-mania.

By Bryn Nelson
When the Twilight craze first erupted, the Quileute lacked a public relations contact and events coordinator. Ann Penn-Charles, a community leader who helps run the weekly drum and healing circle, says producers of the first movie randomly called villagers in hopes of securing permission to film a scene on First Beach. (It was ultimately shot on the Oregon coast instead.) The producers eventually visited La Push to get a better sense of the community. Tribal Secretary Naomi Jacobson says their ideas of Quileute kids were upended when they visited her cousin's home. "They didn't expect them to be modernized teenagers with iPods and Wii," she says.

Five years have passed since then, though, and the village has adjusted. Jackie Jacobs, the tribal publicist since 2009, has recruited several Twilight actors to visit the school and appear at the annual Quileute Days celebration in July. This festival has become the reservation's biggest tourist draw, and summer stays at the resort now require booking months in advance. When Jacobs asked some kids about how La Push has changed, she got a matter-of-fact response. "You definitely have to look now when you're crossing the street," they told her.

In the resort's main office, handcrafted basket earrings, drums, and decorative canoe paddles share display space with autographed pictures of movie stars. Centuries ago, the Quileute and other coastal tribes bred fluffy dogs for woven dog-hair blankets. Both the breed and art form are lost, though Penn-Charles and her mother knit woolen hats adorned with animals and geometric shapes. They too have adapted to the Twilight fans; one girl commissioned four purple-and-white "Team Edward" yarn hats last summer.

"The economic factor is big for our people who still do their arts and crafts," says Penn-Charles. In the summer, some of the tribe's youngsters sell handmade charm bracelets, rocks painted with wolf paw prints, and "La Push" and "Quileute" stickers, earning enough money to buy back-to-school clothing and supplies.

Group tours offer traditional meals served at the beach—crunchy biscuit-like "buckskin bread" and salmon cooked on sticks—along with the chance to sit around a bonfire and hear traditional stories. The outings—usually arranged through a new events coordinator—have generated much-needed income, and provided new ways for traditions and tales to be passed down to the next generation.
Comment:  I like the note about how ignorant the producers were about modern Native teenagers. I wonder where they got the idea that these teenagers would be unsophisticated, primitive, clannish--like animals in human form. Oh, yeah...from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, which portrayed them as an isolated band of wolf people.

For more on Twilight and tourism, see Quileutes Welcome Twilight Fans and Twilight Fans at Quileute Days.

Below:  "La Push's First Beach."

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