Tomorrow, August 14, starting at noon, look for an extraordinary gathering, when Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves opens at the Seattle Art Museum. About 150 Quileute tribal members (including 50 dancers), nearly half the residents of the tiny reservation on the far Olympic Peninsula shore, will come to greet the show and its first visitors. They’ll start with a blessing and continue, from 1 to 3, with drumming and dances.
Curator Barbara Brotherton assumed they’d want to keep the blessing ceremony private: “No, they said, ‘Let everyone come!’” That gives an idea how eager the Quileutes are to share their real story after enduring a century-and-a-half of outright suppression and mass-cultural dilution of their legacy, then a two-year invasion of gawking Twilight fans. (Author Stephenie Meyer cleverly exploited the Quileutes’ own origin tale—of wolves turned into humans—to portray them as sexy shirtless werewolves battling the sexy shirted vampires of Forks.)
Wolves are also prominent in this rich, though small, show—just two galleries, filled with pieces uncovered in collections from La Push to the National Park and Smithsonian archives. There might have been much more, but a feuding homesteader torched the Quileutes’ beachfront village in 1888, destroying most of their treasures. Still, there are gorgeous, eye-opening pieces here. Plus vivid drawings done by Quileute children in 1904-09, recording their threatened arts and dances. And a video of today’s kids proclaiming their tribal pride and (apparently successfully) calling grey whales to shore. Photos of Tyler Hobucket, who danced in the wolf clan’s last full six-day initiation ceremonies circa 1949, stand beside a mannequin bearing his full regalia. His son should be at tomorrow’s ceremony.
As Brotherton and I previewed the show this morning, Quileute representative Jackie Jacobs arrived for a peek. “I’m moved to tears,” she said. “I think when the elders see this, there will be a sense of gratitude and calm.”