Friday, March 16, 2012
The rich soils, rivers and skies along the Columbia nourished and inspired the original peoples of the region for thousands of years.
Now a new generation of inhabitants, including 13 Hood River Middle School students, is being encouraged to experience the cultural and creative heritage of the area.
"Gifts from Our Ancestors" is a two-year program led by local artists, educators and the Confluence Project, to engage more than 1,500 tribal and non-tribal students in the artistic, musical and oral traditions practiced by Native Americans along the Columbia River for generations.
This week renowned Native American artist Lillian Pitt shared her skills as a clay sculptor with willing and eager teens at the Columbia Center for the Arts.
"We are making Steahah (stick) Indians," said Pitt. "These were mythical beings that were there to help children behave."
When Pitt was growing up, she recalled picking huckleberries alongside her mother and being told to "listen for the whistle" of the Steahah.
"If you were good, they would lead you out of a forest if you were lost. If you were bad, they would lead you deeper in," said Pitt.
That alluring whistle is an important feature in the Steahah masks being created by Pitt's students.
"The whistle-mouth must be there," said Pitt. Glancing around the room, it is clear the cultural story has been successfully translated into striking and pronounced facial features.
"It is sort of scary," said Adrian Ramirez when asked about the Steahah story. "It would really work to make kids listen to their parents ... I just like making the actual masks, too."
Pitt brings more than heritage and artistic skill to the students. In her storytelling, she shares a universal wisdom as well.
"I want them to play with the clay without expectations. It takes courage to create something of their very own," said Pitt. "They are amazing and wonderful."
Primarily a sculptor and mixed media artist, Lillian Pitt's lifetime of works include artistic expressions in clay, bronze, wearable art, prints, and most recently, glass. The focus of her work draws on more than 12,000 years of Native American history and tradition of the Columbia River region.
By engaging students and their communities in rich, regional history and modern-day storytelling experiences, "Gifts from Our Ancestors" intends to ensure the continued cultural and ecological stewardship of the Columbia River and its tributaries.
In addition to the mask making, the HRMS students will be involved in a digital storytelling project throughout the week, culminating in a stop-action animated story which focuses on the Celilo Falls and its influence on the region.
Shelley Toon Hight, education and outreach coordinator for the Columbia Center for the Arts, will be leading the image creation for that mixed-media project. Katie Basile, photojournalist, will be teaching students the technical assembly of the work.
Students will incorporate cultural and historical information into their hand-drawn stories, which will then be digitalized using iMovie and Garage Band.
"Not only do digital stories provide a perfect platform to introduce technology and various visual art media, tools and techniques, it allows students to create a finished product that can be shared with a multitude of people for generations to come," said Toon Hight. The project is a way of "passing on the rich tradition of storytelling in new media."
The completed film will become part of a traveling exhibit with the Confluence Project and be maintained in its archives.
Toon Hight added, "I admire the work Lillian Pitt does as an artist and as a culture bearer ... I am so excited that our students have the privilege to meet her and work with her."
HRMS, along with 14 other schools, was selected to receive grant funding to support the project. It received $3,000 to help cover material expenses and visits from artists and cultural experts.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge