The oral tradition -- telling stories and singing songs of past events and folklore -- is one of the oldest ways that humankind has passed memory and knowledge down through time. As history and culture pass from person to person, each voice joins the voices that came before. It is a process that is both collective and personal -- gathering the chronicle of a civilization along with the experiences of an individual. But with technology and economic forces generating new methods of sharing information, and attention spans outpacing the spoken word, this method of remembering the past has begun to falter.
However, this Saturday at The Met, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will celebrate the oral tradition with Coyote & amp; Friends. Combining the forms of traditional oral history with modern presentation, the annual free event continues the museum's mission of drawing recognition to the diversity that exists in the Inland Northwest, and the contributions made to the region by different cultures. This fusion of the timeless and the contemporary was an integral part of the late Peter Campbell's vision, and the show is dedicated to his memory.
Named as the first director for the Museum's Center for Plateau Cultural Studies before his death on Oct. 21, Campbell had long played an instrumental role in building cultural awareness within the Inland Northwest community.
Glenn Mason, former director of the museum, and a friend of Campbell's, helped him with the establishment of the event in 1992.
"I think Peter became involved with the museum in establishing Coyote & amp; Friends because he saw that the museum had the resources and the community respect to sponsor such activities that would help teach Indian and non-Indian people at the same time in a non-threatening, entertaining way. He wanted to let people know that Indian people were still here in contemporary times -- hence the involvement of contemporary music, theater and art alongside of traditional storytelling and music. It became a gift to the community."
Starting at 6:30 pm, attendees to the show can sample frybread and view works by regional American Indian artists. At 7 pm, performers from the Colville, Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Tlingit and Kalispel tribes take the stage with traditional storytelling and music. This will be followed by a one-act play, According to Coyote, focusing on Nez Perce tribal stories about the antics of the Trickster, Coyote. Featuring artist Carlotta Kauffman, the performance blends the Indian tradition of oral history with modern theatrics.
But Coyote & amp; Friends is only a part of the legacy that Campbell has left behind. As an adjunct professor and acting director of American Indian Studies at Eastern Washington University, he played a key role in establishing Salish language classes at the school. In 1997, he was awarded the Peace and Friendship Award by the Washington State Historical Society in recognition for his significant contributions to the understanding of Washington's Indian heritage.
"I think Peter had two primary goals, one for the Indian community and one for the non-Indian community," says Mason. "For Indian people, he wanted them to be proud of who they were, not in the pan-Indian sense, but as members of a specific, unique tribe. He wanted Coeur d'Alenes to know what it was to be a Coeur d'Alene; a Spokane to be proud about being a Spokane. For the non-Indian community, he wanted us to come face-to-face with American Indian people, get to know them, learn about the centuries-old traditions and values, learn how to live along the great rivers of the region together. Peter extended the invitation to all of us to step out and get to know the regional Plateau tribal people, to gain from all the knowledge that Indian people had about this land, and to respect one another."
By establishing events such as Coyote & amp; Friends, Campbell helped to ensure that a significant part of the cultural heritage of the Inland Northwest continues to be heard. Moreover, by bringing the stories, sights and sounds of Native American culture to an audience potentially unfamiliar, the oral tradition -- in which those arts originated -- is kept vibrantly alive.
& & & lt;i & Coyote & amp; Friends is Saturday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 pm at The Met. Tickets: Free. Call: 835-2638. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &