July 29, 2010

Quileute exhibit at Seattle Art Museum

Behind the Scenes:  The Real Story of the Quileute WolvesThe wolf is central to the cultural beliefs of the Quileute Native Peoples of coastal Washington, and wolf imagery is prominent in their art forms. According to oral traditions, the first Quileute were changed from wolves by the Transformer, Kwati; those ancestral beginnings figure significantly in the Quileute world view, even today.

For better or worse, the Quileute were thrust into a media firestorm with the publication of the Twilight books and the release of the first Twilight movies. Because the Quileute were not consulted, their "wolf origins" were misrepresented, and in the books and films they have been portrayed as sexed-up teen werewolves. This has precipitated unwanted visitors to their territory (in the thousands!).

This exhibition consisting of about 30 objects seeks to provide a public platform for the display and interpretation of art works that represent Quileute wolf mythology specifically, and also the larger sphere of their beliefs about spirituality and transformation. As was true for the Coast Salish prior to SAM's 2008–09 exhibition S'abadeb, there have been no prior exhibitions of Quileute art. Although this exhibition will be modest, these carefully chosen works will reveal aspects of Quileute art history, style and meaning.

—Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art
SAM:  'Twilight' got it wrong with the Quileute wolvesBrotherton said she's talked with some of the actors who portray members of the "wolf pack" in the "Twilight" movies. Most weren't even aware the Quileute people really existed, though the movie is supposed to take place near their tribal land in La Push.

"None of it was shot on the Olympic Peninsula except for some scenic shots, so the actors were never here," said Brotherton, speaking from the peninsula where she's finalizing details for the exhibit's opening.

In reality, the Quileutes live on a small reservation. Brotherton said they were ill equipped to deal with the tourism mania that resulted from the popular books and movies--and that's one reason SAM decided to tell their story.

"They thought, let's use 'Twilight' as the entry point," she said. "But let it really be about our ancestral relationship with wolves. They've never been werewolves, but wolves are very important."
Comment:  The actors weren't aware the Quileute existed...even though they're playing Quileute Indians? Wow.

That may have been how it was early in the series. I hope it's not that way now.

Even so, it shows how far we have to go. One or two movies featuring modern-day Indians aren't enough to overcome centuries of misinformation. It may take centuries of information--of seeing Indians in nonstereotypical venues and stories--before the old stereotypes fade away.

For more on what people don't know, see Media Doesn't Know Quileutes Are Real and Twilight Readers Forget Quileutes. For more on genuine Quileute culture, see 2010 Quileute Days and Twilight Fans Get Quileute Culture.

Below:  Wolf headdress, Quileute.

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