Native traditions continue at ‘Pepper Fest’

Discover how, by honoring the legacy of Parkrose raised musician Jim Pepper, this organization goes on celebrating our indigenous people …

This village appears at Parkrose High School – as the 2018 “Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival” gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For the fifth year, an event called “Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival” brought Native American music, art and culture to the western grounds of Parkrose High School on September 29.

“It’s a celebration of our indigenous people, and part of our organization’s mission: To improve access to culturally relevant music education for Native American students, in the name of [American jazz saxophonist, composer, and singer of Native American ancestry] Jim Pepper,” explained Sean Cruz, Executive Director of the Jim Pepper Native Arts Counsel.

Stopping for a photo are Jim Pepper Native Arts Counsel Board members Black Bear Guerrero and Robert Van Pelt, here flanking Executive Director Sean Cruz.

“We’re carrying on this tradition of celebrating the legacy of Jim Pepper, one of the greatest musicians and most original voices to have emerged from our state, and now inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame,” Cruz told East Portland News. “Even though he’s the only Oregon musician whose instrument is enshrined at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, many people haven’t heard his his music, because it’s mostly out-of-print.”

The N’Chi Wanapum Canoe Family entertains.

Visitors browsed through the temporary village, shopping among 40 Native American arts vendors, and visiting with representatives of governmental agencies and bureaus, and others from nonprofit organizations.

Music and cultural programs emanated from two stages during the celebration, showcasing a cross-section of traditional and contemporary Native American music, performed by students as well as professional musicians.

Debra Lira, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Nation, shows her artwork.

“And, we’re respecting the educational legacy of his mother, Floy Pepper, the first Native American educator hired by Portland Public Schools. She had a distinguished career for more than 60 years as a professional educator, with the Council’s new Speak/Sing Native™ program,” remarked Cruz.

Speak/Sing Native™ is a new, trademarked, multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to culturally-relevant Native American music education, combining the performing arts, multimedia technology, and indigenous language preservation.

Chanting and drumming are members of the Turquoise Pride drum circle.

When he sees this Native American village appear each year, Cruz told East Portland News, “I feel a lot of pride, because I love these people. I’ve been working on Jim Pepper’s legacy projects for 14 years, and it’s put all of these people into my life that I would’ve never met otherwise.”

At the festival’s end, the encampment had vanished once again; but, organizers say, it will return next year.

Learn more about the festival and Council at their official website: CLICK HERE.

On our Front Page:
Sweetwater Nannauck drums and sings learned from her (Tlingit) great-grandmother – a traditional medicine woman.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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