July 06, 2009

Quileutes ponder Twilight tourism

Vampire Vacation

'Twilight' fans turn a quiet Indian reservation into an unwitting tourist mecca

By Su-Jin Yim
"Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer chose Forks after Googling for the rainiest place in America and was pleased to find the Quileute nearby.

Locals marvel at how much she got right, but the economically depressed reservation is ambivalent about "Twilight" and how its 350 residents should capitalize on it. Compared to Forks, where visitors can pose with Bella's truck and participate in a "Twilight" look-alike contest, the reservation is cloaked in centuries-old anonymity.

"There are mixed feelings," says tribal council member Anna Rose Counsell. Over the last three months, the tribe has struggled over what to do. "This is a phenomenon that is happening whether we like it or not."

Tribal leaders hired a p.r. pro, Jackie Jacobs, in February after being inundated with "Twilight" inquiries. The tribe opened its Wednesday night drum circle to all visitors, which recently included two families of "Twilight" fans.

At the tribe-owned Oceanside Resort, director Renee Rux says business is up 30 percent, thanks to "Twilight." "It's been huge for us," Rux says. The resort recently partnered with a charter boat company to offer "Twilight" tour packages for $250.
And:A hospitality industry veteran, Rux promised to add $1 million to the resort's $2 million in revenue when she was hired last September. It's just not clear how much the Quileute people want to share their culture for profit.

Hospitality is an ingrained part of their culture, but elders are worried about building a tourist economy. They fret about how their creation story is portrayed in the book. The tribe says they were changed from wolves to humans by a traveler. Meyer took literary liberty, enabling them to change back at will in an eternal battle against vampires.

"This is our opportunity to educate people on Quileute history," Counsell says.
Comment:  To reiterate, the Quileute Indians are ambivalent about the publicity from Twilight. In particular, they don't seem to like the "license" Stephenie Meyer took with their legends.

Maybe Twilight fans don't understand what Meyer did, but Newspaper Rock readers do. Meyer falsified the origin story--that the Quileutes were "changed from wolves to humans by a traveler"--and fibbed about her version of the story being "genuine."

I'm glad to see I envisioned the Quileute response to this falsification correctly. They're not basking in the Twilight limelight and eagerly raking in the tourist dollars. They're not blasé about their ancient legends being (mis)used.

No, they're looking at the Twilight phenomenon with skepticism and wariness. They see it as an opportunity to teach genuine Quileute culture, which is good. And to correct the mistakes in Meyer's books, which is bad and shouldn't be necessary.

For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

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