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Native art benefits tribe in many ways

LITTLE BOSTON — They are a quiet, peaceful people, but their powerful artwork speaks louder than words.

Members of the creative community within the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe gave a preview this week of the native art to be auctioned off during the tribe’s annual dinner event Nov. 8.

The tribe is holding its second annual “Winter Traditions” at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle. Northwest coastal art will be sold through a live and silent auction. There will also be a performance by the David Boxley Dancers, in addition to a traditional S’Klallam dinner.

Event proceeds benefit the tribe’s House of Knowledge project. The goal is to raise $5 million for a four-building campus that will include a longhouse, career and education center, new library and elders center.

The tribe is halfway through its financial goal, with approximately $30,000 originating from last year’s dinner event.

About 50 pieces of the hand-carved and handmade art have been submitted so far and more is expected to show up, said HOK project manager Laurie Mattson.

A group of women elders and the tribe’s elder coordinator, Sue Hanna, created a red and black button blanket with a Native American bear design. The group made the blanket in just three weeks, working every afternoon to stitch buttons, sequins, the bear and borders onto the black material.

Hanna pointed out the blanket only has three red borders, which signifies peace.

Last year, the group created a button blanket for the auction with the tribe’s logo, a killer whale.

Tribal elder and mastercarver Jake Jones carved a sculpture of a blue heron from Alaskan yellow cedar and attached it to a piece of red cedar. The piece also includes Abalony shells from Bella Bella, Canada and Opercula shells.

“I want to help the with auction,” Jones said. “I didn’t have any time to do anything big time.”

Jones contributed an impressive traditional three-foot long bird mask last year lined with strips of cedar bark.

Tribal Chairman Ron Charles also got into the creative spirit and donated a hand-carved paddle with red and black tribal symbols he recently completed.

“Oh, just my way, my contribution,” he said humbly.

Besides artists contributing their works, Charles said the auction also gives non-creative types a chance to help out with the project, such as setting up before the event and greeting guests.

“The auction is kind of a fun thing,” Charles said. “I think it’s a really nice thing for people who aren’t artists to try and help out.”

For tickets to the event or more information about the HOK project, call event coordinator Marie Hebert at (360) 297-2646.

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