Native Arts Fest returns to Parkrose

Read this, and know why this annual music and arts festival is rooted in Parkrose …

This native American Drum Circle provides a soundtrack for the third annual Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The third annual Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival has again been held, on September 26, at Parkrose High School. But, unlike past years, it was held in a village-like setting on the west end of the campus, above the school’s track and field.

Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival Executive Director Sean Aaron Cruz said the festival’s namesake became a pioneer of fusion jazz in the late 1960s.

-2 Talking with some of the guests is Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival Executive Director Sean Aaron Cruz.

“Jim played his tenor saxophone with a recognizable and penetrating tone, and soulful delivery,” Cruz remarked. “Of Kaw and Creek heritage, Pepper also combined elements of jazz with American Indian music.”

The Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival’s mission is to improve access to music education in Jim Pepper’s name in these several ways, Cruz told East Portland News:

Fundraising and awarding Jim Pepper Remembrance college scholarships to worthy music and dance students in Jim’s home neighborhood, the Parkrose School District, and to Native American and First Nations students living on or off reservation anywhere in the USA and Canada.

Providing performing opportunities for student musicians at the Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival.

Providing a free all-ages concert for the community at Parkrose High School.

-3 The color guard for this festival is composed of members of the Northwest Natives Veterans Association.

-4 Anita Davis gives the invocation as Aurolyn Stwyer “signs” the Lord’s Prayer.

“This is a neighborhood is where Pepper grew up,” Cruz reflected. “This is the neighborhood he came back to – then eventually passed away in, way too young, at the age of 50. There are legions of people out there who remember Jim, and love his music.”

One of the highlights of the all-afternoon event was a performance of the Jim Pepper Flying Eagle All-Stars, featuring poet and musician Avotcja Jiltonilro, jamming with Ken Man, Larry E. Pindar, Gary Ogan, and Leslie White.

-5 Representing the 13 outer East Portland neighborhoods is Arlene Kimura, chair of the Hazelwood neighborhood.

“This is also a Native American Festival,” Cruz pointed out. “The theme is ‘We are all united’. We’re bringing together vendors with Korean food over here, and some fried bread over there. We have native American crafts, and neighborhood resources – all here today.”

-6 The Native American Festival booths are set up as the event begins.

They’re already planning the 2016 festival, Cruz commented. “We are launching from here. We have been working in the first few years to ‘dial in’ the place. Here, in this field, we’ve found it.”

Find out more by visiting their official website: CLICK HERE.

> On our Front Page: Aurolyn Stwyer of Red Skye Trading and Pawn shows beadwork.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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