Friday, September 19, 2008

September 6 Native American Wetland Cultures Day

On Saturday Sept. 6 the wetlands where humming with fall pollinators and high spirits. The first annual Native American Wetland Culture Day drew a crowd of more than 150 attendees who enjoyed actives such as basket weaving, presentation of a traditional Kalapuya canoe and traditional camas bake and tasting, information on native plants utilized by the Kalapuya for thousands of years, and a family activity of cattail boat making and floating.

Many excited attendees joined Adam DeHeer on a walk through the history of the local wetlands. As part of the day’s activities he led an interpretive walk down the Tsanchiffin trial starting 12,000 years in past, traveling through time past the eruption of Mt. Mazama, all the way back the present Willamette Valley and its current wet prairie. Adam focused on the way the Kalapuya participated in the Willamette Valley over this 12,000-year history and how their participation in Willamette Valley has helped shape the wetlands of today. It was a whirlwind tour of 12,000 years crammed into an hour, but participants must have lingered just long enough in the past, for there were a few attendees seen returning from the walk with a light dusting of Mt. Mazama ash on their shoulders. They made it back in time to think about what the next 12,000 years in the wetlands may be like and how people living here today might choose to interact with this habitat rich in Ecological relationships and cultural inspirations.

Sitting on the dried grass, sun warming our shoulders, a story transported each of us, young and old, to a time when Coyote had beautiful blue eyes. We were mesmerized as Esther described how those beautiful eyes were lost, and how Coyote now has yellow eyes. Esther is a storyteller and history keeper. She tells only Coos and Kalapuya stories. Her grandmother told her that it was bad luck to tell other people or other tribes' stories. Stories are regarded as private property, as are songs. She has thirteen stories she shares with the public. We all felt so lucky to hear a few of those stories on this beautiful day!-Holly McRae

In the early afternoon, everyone was gathered around the stage listening to the final singing and drumming for the day. I remember it gave me chills to listen to. I had my eyes closed and felt the warm September wind blowing and the drumming throughout my whole body. It really takes your mind back to imagine historical sights and sounds of this area. Afterwards, Esther and Eric Jones thanked everyone for coming out. When Eric said there was talk about repeating this event next year, there was a huge applause! The whole day was just amazing.-Windy Hovey

Thank you to Matt McRae for all the photos of the day.


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