What about those wolves….

A small Native community, knit together by ancient beliefs, living in their ancestral homelands—a  remote coastal village, ringed with primordial forests and in the shadow of Mt. Olympus—seems like a fitting scenario for a supernatural story line.  Cast as shape-shifting werewolves in the Twilight saga books and films, opposite a band of sophisticated vampires, the Quileute really do have ties to wolves—but not werewolves! Quileute oral traditions trace their distinguished ancestry back to myth time when the powerful transformer, Kwa-ti, changed a pair of wolves into the first Quileute people. Thus began a long association with the wolf. I don’t know if Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight books, knew this but her mention of the mysterious Quileute tribe and an ancient treaty with vampires catapulted their small nation into notoriety.

From my point of view, they have shown remarkable poise in dealing with their new-found fame. In fact, they have collaborated with the museum for the last several months on a special exhibition of their art, most of which has been in the storehouses of major museums, in order to tell the authentic story of their wolf connections.

The wolf headdresses, sculptures of spirit beings, rattles, drums, and other objects—some more than 100 years old—were collected at a time when Quileute traditions were suppressed. What you will see when you come to the exhibition at SAM are those old traditions but, more importantly, how they have been kept vital and alive. The exhibit, Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves, opens on August 14 with a special performance by the Quileute tribe from 1:00-3:00 pm, and continues until August 14, 2011. The Quileute tribe will also bless the exhibition at 12 noon, please join us.

This exhibition brings together rare works of art, interpreted by us, as a counterpoint to the Hollywood story, to proclaim our richly complex and beautiful traditions. In all of our actions we continue to acknowledge the gifts of our ancestors and to uplift our children. — Quileute Advisory Committee

–Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art

Wolf headdress, late 19th-early 20th century, Quileute, wood, paint, hair, 6 x 13 x 5 ½ in., Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 059729.000