All I can say is…you shoulda been there!
I traveled from Los Angeles to Lewiston, Idaho on Tuesday, March 6th to be part of Lewis-Clark State College’s annual Native American Awareness Week.
As most of you know, Lewis-Clark has an active Native student population, led by Bob Sobotta. As you might have also known, Bob is my friend Angel Sobotta’s husband. It was an honor to be asked to join them and well worth the time I took out of my busy schedule to travel to Nez Perce country.
Bob and the students booked me for a solo acoustic performance at the Silvethorne Theater, which is a beautiful old space on the campus of Lewis-Clark State College.
We had a great crowd of children, elders, students and community members that evening. I had the pleasure of performing a lot of my personal favorite songs, plus debuted a re-tooled version of “Celilo Falls.” “Celilo Falls” was originally debuted at the Museum of Warm Springs fundraiser back in 2010. I revisited the track, writing new verses and keeping the hummable chorus. I’ll put up a sample of the song in the next few weeks. I really like how it turned out.
I also had a group of community kids onstage to do the chorus of “Junior Frybread” with me. Those kids were so much fun. They had a great time pointing to folks in the theater on the “Best bread is over there” line in the chorus of the song. I wish I always had “Junior Frybread” singers with me onstage.
On Thursday, I did a 90-minute lecture about what to expect from the entertainment business as a Native artist. A talk like this could get really discouraging, especially with the few roles and projects on offer for Native actors. I also spoke about surviving in the music business, which is similar to survival as an actor. The crowd was lively and asked a lot of great questions. Was also thrilled to meet once again Claire, the manager from KWIS-FM, the Couer D’Alene tribal radio station. Claire and I first met at last year’s National Federation of Community Broadcaster’s convention in San Francisco, CA. Patrick Dundas, also from KWIS-FM, taped the lecture for later broadcast on their station. Really did my best to encourage folks, but to also realize that there is no overnight success and that you only fail by giving up!
Friday was a short 3-hour workshop on radio drama. Several of the previous participants from last year’s writer’s workshop were there (hey to Art, Janice and Sarah!) to go over the basics. I revamped a couple of unproduced “Super Indian” radio scripts for us to work on. We went through the scripts a couple of times and had lots of laughter over the whole process. It was a kick to have one of the other fine, learned scholars from the Native American Awareness Week join us — Dr. Beth Piatote from UC Berkeley. She had the fun of voicing “Diogi,” the super-intelligent dog character in the “Super Indian” series. I may have to edit and post for your enjoyment….sometime down the road.
The fun wasn’t over yet — Friday night there was an excellent Pow-Wow that brought out community, faculty and students. It was great to see all the kids and elders there. They had over ten drum groups there and there was non-stop dancing. The kids at the pow-wow had the most beautiful smiles and regalia. The elders who were there stood tall and proud and brought a tear to the eye. There were tons of folks in the stands, enjoying frybread and such.
There was a humorous moment following an honor/giveaway. A young pizza delivery dude was wandering around the gym and headed straight toward one of drums. This is something I’ve never witnessed….a pizza delivery to the drum. Yes, it really happened. (Actually, a guy from the crowd came and collected the pizza…but isn’t it a wonder you don’t see this more often? AAAY!)
Was also great to see Angel Sobotta’s mom, Rosa Yearout in full regalia. She is one the community’s most treasured elders and she’s sweet on top of that! Both ladies are such treasures and it’s great to spend time with them. Here they are in their glory!
One of the other pluses of spending time in Lewiston was staying with Freda Jagelski. Freda is the sister of Thirza Defoe, a fine actor, writer and singer who I know through Native Voices at the Autry. Thirza and I led the Nimiipuu Writers’ Workshop last year.
Thirza introduced us last year and we got on like a house on fire!
The Jagelskis were my hosts for the entire trip. I enjoyed spending time with Freda, her husband Nick and their daughter Josie.
We did something I had never done before…got on a small boat, launched on the Snake River and went bass fishing. Yes, that’s me….two-fisted water and coffee drinker after we got back. Did we catch anything? Only the breeze! AAAY! I will have to make a return trip and show those bass who’s boss, ennit?
All in all, it was a fantastic trip. If you ever get a chance to visit with the Native community in Lewiston or Lapwai — do it! They’re working hard to keep culture alive and in the forefront. It really made me glad to know that so many of the young people in the community were making great efforts to learn their tribal language and ways. Not easy in a Facebook/Twitter world.
They’re fun folks and the scenery is breath-taking. I know I’ll return to the Snake River again….and probably take another drive along the Clearwater River. It’s so peaceful and gorgeous there.