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News / Life / Clark County Life

Native American Heritage event in Vancouver will emphasize education, understanding

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 16, 2018, 6:05am
4 Photos
During the “Native Runway” showcase that anchors Vancouver’s Native American Heritage Month celebration, dancers show off their moves and regalia.
During the “Native Runway” showcase that anchors Vancouver’s Native American Heritage Month celebration, dancers show off their moves and regalia. Photo Gallery

It’s not a pow wow. But you wouldn’t be too far off if you thought of the Native American cultural celebration coming Saturday to Vancouver’s Water Resources Education Center as a sort of pow wow plus.

Pow wows feature wall-to-wall dancing and drumming. Saturday’s Native American Heritage Month celebration will have that, but there will also be an emphasis on information and explanation that pow wows don’t usually bother with.

“It’s more of an educational event,” said Water Center educator Cory Samia. “The dancers will talk about their regalia and what it means, and maybe how it was made or how it got handed down through the family.” They’ll also introduce themselves and their roles in our community today, Samia said. Plenty of time will be set aside for meeting and mingling. And, everyone will be invited to participate in a friendship dance.

“They are your neighbors. They’re students, doctors, lawyers. After (the recent) election, they’re even politicians,” Samia added, referring to newly minted Congresswomen-elect who are members of tribes in Kansas and New Mexico.

If You Go

What: Native American Heritage Month celebration.

When: Noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; Native Runway begins at 1 p.m.

Where: Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, Vancouver.

Admission: Free.

Contact: 360-487-7111.

What: “Promised Land” documentary screening.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28. (Doors open at 6:15 p.m.)

Where: Old Liberty Theater, 115 N. Main Ave., Ridgefield.

Admission: Free.

Contact: MeaningfulMovies.org/Neighborhoods/Meaningful-Movies-in-Ridgefield

The city of Vancouver and Native American volunteers have been collaborating for years on a Saturday festival during Native American Heritage Month, which is November. The event began small, as one of the Water Center’s brief Second Saturday outings for children, Samia said, but it quickly outgrew that. For the last few years, it’s been a standalone cultural event that lasts all afternoon.

“We wanted to pull together an event that showcases the Native community in a contemporary way,” she said. “Native cultures are still here, they contribute to society, they’re very much alive.”

And, Paige Coleman added, they’re very much in business. This will be the second year that Vancouver’s Native American Heritage Month celebration features an arts-and-crafts marketplace organized by Coleman and Native Vendors United, a Portland-based merchants group.

“A small group of us started putting on Native American marketplaces because we realized we wanted two things,” she said. One was more opportunities to sell their wares; the other was greater overall visibility for Native people in the metropolitan area, she said. (According to regional government agency Metro, Portland is home to more than 58,000 Native Americans. That’s the ninth largest urban population in the nation.)

“We have over 100 vendors now,” she said, of which approximately 30 will be on hand Saturday. “The event at the Water Center is a great fit.”

Food won’t be among their offerings, Samia said, because there’s limited space at the Water Center and she wants to keep the focus on artists and crafters. Be on the lookout for handmade jewelry, hand-cut stone art, purses and bags, clothing, ceramics, beadwork, photographs, lotions and salves — and even one amazing artist who paints on bird feathers, Coleman said. (Mass produced and sacred items are prohibited.)

“People can come see the full range of art and regalia,” said Coleman. “It’ll a beautiful event that helps illuminate that the Native community is thriving.”

Meaningful movie

If this subject interests you, save the date of Nov. 28 for a screening of “Promised Land,” a 2016 documentary film that follows the Pacific Northwest’s Duwamish and Chinook Indian tribes as they struggle to restore treaty rights and establish tribal sovereignty. Hosting the screening is Meaningful Movies in Ridgefield, which offers social-justice documentaries and discussions on the last Wednesday of each month at the Old Liberty Theater. Snacks, beer and wine are available in the cafe.

Attending the screening and leading the discussion afterward will be Sam Robinson, vice chairman of the Chinook Nation, and visiting filmmakers Vasant and Sarah Salcedo.