Photo by Sue Misao

Photo by Sue Misao

By Marcy Stamper

More than a century after the native inhabitants of the Methow Valley were displaced, their ancestors, members of other tribes and current Methow residents are coming together for the 11th year in a row to celebrate reconciliation.

The Heart of the Methow Powwow, a traditional gathering of shared meals, singing and dancing, and education, draws people from around the region.

Renee Sutherland has been to all 10 powwows. “I was amazed. I’d lived in Twisp 30 years, knew of the Native American presence and had seen petroglyphs and found artifacts. People knew about it, but no one talked about it,” said Sutherland, who is a descendant of the Yaqui tribe.

Sutherland recalls attending powwows in California when she was very young, but said this powwow is different because it is participatory, where everyone is welcome to dance, drum and sing. Most contemporary powwows are competitive, where dancing and singing troupes vie for trophies and cash awards.

“It’s very inclusive, regardless of people’s lineage or philosophy – everyone is encouraged to dance and participate,” said Twisp resident Shannon Fharnham, who became involved with the powwow as a way of connecting with Native American relatives. While open to all, the dancing is ceremonial and sacred and not to be taken lightly, said Fharnham.

The powwow also includes education about traditions and rituals, including the shared meal, a symbol of providing for the Methow people. Dancing, singing and drumming are ways of communicating with ancestors and the spirit, said Sutherland.

Grover Topaum, a native artist who donates original paintings for a raffle at the powwow, returns as emcee this year. The powwow ends with reflection at circle talks on Sunday.

“The first powwow was eye-opening – like coming home, where I wanted to be. I was comfortable and felt accepted,” said Sutherland.

“It’s a way of breaking down barriers and bringing people in,” said Fharnham.


Interpretive Center

The Methow Valley Interpretive Center is a direct outgrowth of the powwow. The center is a way to chronicle natives’ stories and build connections through exhibits that are open year-round, said Carolyn Schmekel, the center’s executive director.

Current exhibits include photos, memorabilia and artifacts from the early 20th century that tell the story of two sisters, Tillie Timentwa Gorr and Elaine Emerson, descendants of the Methow band. The center is also in the process of creating an outdoor exhibit of a native encampment, with a teepee, a pit house and native plants.

The Interpretive Center, at TwispWorks, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call 997-4904.


Powwow schedule

All events in Twisp Park


Friday, Aug. 16

7 – 10 p.m. – Grand entry; dancing and drumming


Saturday, Aug. 17

10 a.m. – noon  Cultural activities

Noon – 1 p.m.  Shared meal

1 – 5 p.m.  Dancing and drumming; cultural activities

5:30 – 7 p.m.  Dinner break

7 – 10 p.m.  Grand entry; dancing and drumming


Sunday, Aug. 18

10 a.m. to noon  Circle talks and closing


Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are donating salmon and venison for the shared meal on Saturday. Attendees should bring something to contribute to the potluck.