Native American Festival Week is about storytelling

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Native American Arts week at Idyllwild Arts Summer Programs.        Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts

Native American Arts week at Idyllwild Arts Summer Programs. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts

The Native American people are storytellers. It is a fundamental part of their culture — solemn yet celebratory ritual retellings of their arrival into this world and their history as a people.

Year 15 of the Native American Festival Week at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program centers around that key component of Native American life with an offering of performances, art exhibits, workshops and informal discussions with noted scholars, tribal elders and artists throughout the week from Sunday, June 29, to Saturday July 5.

Presenters include fine artists, dancers, anthropologists, filmmakers and authors, and come from tribes and nations throughout the U.S., each with its own story and history as part of the shared mosaic of “The People.”

Highlights of the week include Kabotie Lecture Series presenter David Treuer, “Writing Indian Life,” from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 2; Deana Dartt, curator, “Removing the Middle Man: Integrating Native American Object Stories into Museum Interpretation,” from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 3; and a Friday, July 4, highlight, the 15-member dance troupe the Git Hayetsk Northwest Coast Intertribal Dance Group at 7 p.m. The group, internationally known, is from the Coast Salish Territory, known today as Vancouver, British Columbia. Their name means “People of the Copper Shield.” As is traditional, the troupe will be welcomed by the Mountain Cahuilla Bird Singers.

The spirit of the week is to tell the stories through diverse media — to integrate scientific, intuitive and trickster voices together for a learning experience celebrating many traditions. See www.idyllwildarts.org/page.cfm?p=725 for details on the week’s events.

The immersion of Native American culture with Idyllwild Arts began at the inception of the Summer Program, in the summer of 1949, when founders Dr. Max and Bee Krone visited a number of reservations in Arizona and New Mexico with Ataloa, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, a nationally recognized educator and field representative of the Los Angeles Center for International Students and Visitors. During that summer road trip, the Krones attended many festivals and met noted Native American artists and spokespersons.

The Krones thought the blend of Native American art and history, with the art and music that would come to be known as the Idyllwild School of Music and Art Summer Program, would be a perfect fit for the pristine mountain campus in Idyllwild — an ideal place to tell the story of humans merging and integrating with nature — celebrating, singing, dancing and creating.

And, in the summer of 1950, friends from the trip the year before began arriving to share their Native American traditions with Summer Program attendees. The first summer workshops, organized by Dr. Krone, a part-time Idyllwild resident and then dean of the University of Southern California Institute of the Arts, had 40 attendees and covered six weeks of intensive instruction. Now, workshops and programs range from one to eight weeks and accommodate more than 2,000 children, youth, adults and families.

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