How to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month in Seattle

The Seattle Is Native Land Festival, Streaming Recommendations, and More
November 19, 2020
Supaman, an Apsáalooke rapper originally from Seattle, will give a virtual performance on Friday as part of the Seattle Is Native Land festival. (Artist Photo)

Not just home to Thanksgiving, November is also Native American Heritage Month (which, it shouldn't come as a surprise, wasn't officially designated until 1990). Though celebrating the contributions of Indigenous people is always important, this month is an especially good time for it, and many local organizations are holding panel discussions, performances, and other events for the occasion. We've rounded those up below, along with some other local Native American businesses to support and some notable music, books, and other media with a local Indigenous connection. 

EVENTS

Events are online unless otherwise noted

NOVEMBER 18–DECEMBER 9

Steve Smith: Diversity
Dla'kwagila artist Steve Smith shows paintings of Pacific Northwest wildlife that reflect his experience of the events of the past year, from the global pandemic to the presidential election.
Steinbrueck Native Gallery

NOVEMBER 19

ReImagine Indigenous Theater Panel
What would theater look like in the United States if it were shaped by Indigenous communities and upheld tribal sovereignty? That's the meat and potatoes of this panel discussion hosted by industry folks from the Seattle Repertory Theater. 

RESgiving 2020
Young Native American theater artists from Red Eagle Soaring, one of the few programs of its kind in the country, will put on performances at this online fundraiser and celebration, where you can bid on auction items to support their cause. 

Wisdom of the World Religions - Native American
While Native American cultures around the country are vastly diverse, this online Center for Spiritual Living lecture with instructor Michael Bogar will focus on the archetypal similarities between North American native cultures found in masks, dances, myths, and customs. At the end of the class, you'll learn how the Seattle Seahawks got their name and logo from a local Native dance ceremony. 

NOVEMBER 20

Changer: The Radio Play
Native local storytellers Roger Fernandes and Fern Renville, the original cast members of the multimedia production Changer and the Star People, will bring Coastal Salish "myths, legends, and sovereign futures" to life in this Sound Theatre Company radio play.

Native American Flute Songs: Gary Stroutsos
Wind down your week with Seattle-based Native flute artist Gary Stroutsos's program of meditative acoustics performed live from Saint Mark's Cathedral. 

Native American Month Celebration
United Indians, Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, and the Office of Indian Child Welfare will team up for a virtual silent auction featuring beaded earrings, paintings, Christmas ornaments, and a handmade rocking chair, proceeds from which will benefit Indigenous youth navigating the foster care system. 

NOVEMBER 20–21

Indigenous People Festival
The Seattle Indian Health Board and Seattle Center present a two-day online festival filled with performances and discussions. 

Seattle is Native Land: 2020 Indigenous People Festival
Celebrate some of what Coast Salish culture has to offer with this online festival of music, dance, and performances created by and for local Native communities.

THROUGH NOVEMBER 28

Highline Celebration of Indigenous Voices & Stories
Join Highline Public Schools Native Education Program, Highline Heritage Museum, and other local organizations for an online discussion with and about the urban Native communities in Highline and South King County. 

Northwest Native Art Glass: Dan Friday, Preston Singletary, Raven Skyriver
Contemporary Northwest Indigenous art and the studio glass movement collide in this group show featuring work by celebrated local glass artists Dan Friday (Lummi), Preston Singletary (Tlingit), and Raven Skyriver (Tlingit). Originally scheduled to end in October, the show's been extended through November and new works have been added.
Stonington Gallery, Wed-Sat

LOCAL BUSINESSES TO SUPPORT

Off the Rez
For years, Seattle’s first and only Native American food truck Off the Rez, owned by couple Mark McConnell and Cecilia Rikard, has enjoyed a cult following for its Native-inspired dishes, like its
famous fry bread and signature “Indian tacos” (fry bread stuffed with fillings like chili and barbecue pulled pork). McConnell, whose mother grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, was inspired by the traditional fry bread and Indian tacos of his childhood, which he couldn’t find anywhere else in Seattle. In October 2019, the business made the leap to a brick-and-mortar business with the debut of its cafe, which is located inside the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus and also offers dishes made with pre-colonial ingredients, such as wild rice bowls and sweet potato salads. If you’d like to try their Native American cuisine for yourself, the cafe is currently open for takeout and delivery through their website or by calling 206-414-TACO, as well as through Postmates and UberEats (though phone and website orders are encouraged, since tips and service charges go directly to the staff), and the truck travels to various neighborhoods in the Seattle area.

Eighth Generation
Founded by Nooksack artist and activist Louie Gong back in 2008 when his shoe-customizing gig proved a much larger project than his living room could accommodate, this Pike Place shop (which is also home to the Inspired Natives artist residency) offers art, gifts, and homewares made by (read: not simply inspired by) Native makers in the Pacific Northwest. Currently owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe, the business also claims to be the first Native-owned company to produce wool blankets.

Native Works by Chief Seattle Club
In partnership with Chief Seattle Club, this nonprofit works to end urban Native homelessness through job rehabilitation programs—like the forthcoming seed-to-table project Sovereignty Farm (slated for 2021), which will provide opportunities for Indigenous elders, apprentices, artisans, and farmers. It also offers things like t-shirts, jewelry, Native cultural items, and prints via its online shop, whose proceeds benefit its mission.

OTHER WAYS TO CELEBRATE

MUSIC
If you aren't familiar with Seattle-based Native American funk band Khu.éex’ (pronounced Koo-eex), led by Tlingit bassist/vocalist Preston Singletary, now's the time to remedy that situation. As Jasmyne Keimig has written, "Khu.éex' combine far-out funk and jazz with spoken word and Great Native Northwest storytelling to present a contemporary interpretation of their culture to the world. Their most recent EP Héen ('water' in Tlingit) deals with the importance of water to Indigenous communities across the country." Also worth checking out: Portland-based Swinomish indie rocker Black Belt Eagle Scout, Seattle-based Suquamish singer/songwriter Calina Lawrence, and Montana-based, Seattle-born Apsáalooke Nation hip-hop artist Supaman. You'll also find some gems on KEXP's Indigenous People's Day mix from earlier this year.

PODCASTS
If podcasts are your medium of choice, you'll be glad to know that there are two very timely, very local selections worth your attention. Seedcast, from Seattle-based organization Nia Tero (whose mission is "securing Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems") tells stories that "dig up, nurture, and root stories of the Indigenous experience from around the world." The second episode premiered on November 18. “Natives Were Never Homeless Before 1492,” a Chief Seattle Club production from earlier this year, "follows the resilience of urban Native folks in Seattle who are unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they tie into the community at Chief Seattle Club."

BOOKS
For a primer on local Native American heritage, check out Chief Seattle and the Town That Took His Name, which Elliott Bay describes as the "first thorough historical account of Chief Seattle and his times—the story of a half-century of tremendous flux, turmoil, and violence, during which a native American war leader became an advocate for peace and strove to create a successful hybrid racial community." Natalie Diaz (Mojave) is also one of The Stranger's favorite poets, and many people agree: She's also a MacArthur "genius," and her latest book, Postcolonial Love Poemis a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry. Third Place Books and the Seattle Public Library also have collections of noteworthy Native American fiction.

ART
Released last summer, Crisca Bierwert's Visible on Ancestral Lands: Coast Salish Public Art Works map is perhaps even better suited to the social distancing times we now live in. On it, you'll find documentation of art pieces created by the Coast Salish people that are viewable to the general public so you can create your own walking tour. Note that some pieces may have moved since last year or be in spaces that are now inaccessible to the public due to COVID (such as the Convention Center), but the pieces are worth viewing online regardless. You can also view the Seattle Art Museum's Native American collection in their eMuseum, or browse the artist pages of the yəhaw̓’ collective, the group that brought the huge Indigenous art show to King Street Station in 2019.

FILM
The National Museum of the American Indian's 20th-anniversary Native Cinema Showcase (through Nov 27) brings 65 new features and shorts, fan favorites, and conversations with filmmakers to the digital screen, highlighting Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and the Arctic. PBS also has a special Native American Heritage collection available to stream online, which includes Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (a documentary that "asserts the primacy and resiliency of Native culture despite the government’s concerted efforts to suppress and erase it," as per former Stranger music editor Dave Segal) and Dawnland, "the untold story of Indigenous child removal in the US through the nation's first-ever government-endorsed truth and reconciliation commission," a film for which Seattle-based filmmaker (and Stranger Genius nominee) Tracy Rector was a producer. We'd also recommend Gather, a new film from Sanjay Rawal that premiered in September that, according to the New York Times, "wonderfully weaves personal stories with archival footage that contextualizes the continued violence against Native Americans."