Old friends, traditional art converge in Longhouse

OLYMPIA - About 40 statewide and regional American Indian artists converged Saturday at The Evergreen State College Longhouse for a holiday native art fair.

Saturday was the second of two days of artists selling traditional artwork, such as beads and basketry, and contemporary artwork such as jewelry designs and clothing, Longhouse assistant director Laura Grabhorn said.

The Longhouse, which opened in 1995, has hosted a one-day native art fair annually since 1998, then expanded it to two days in 2007 as more American Indian artists took part in the fair. Over the years, the number of artists participating in the fair has doubled, Grabhorn said.

American Indians represented at the fair included members of the Chehalis, Yakama, Cowlitz and Navajo tribes.

Navajo singer and musician Eli Secody of Phoenix said Saturday that it was his third year at the fair. Secody, who said he was named best male artist at the 2005 Native American Music Awards, sold copies of a CD called “Butterfly.” He described his music as contemporary Native American church music and contemporary hand drum music.

Although the fair wasn’t as busy as last year’s, which Secody attributed to the slower economy, it still was a good time to catch up with old friends, he said.

The Longhouse, a long, rectangular building, is meant to recall the common residential buildings historic to area tribes. It is used as a gathering place for cultural ceremonies, classes, conferences, performances, art exhibits and community events, according to the school’s Web site. The 10,000-square-foot structure recently expanded by 1,800 square feet.

Also selling art were Norma Jack, a Yakama/Cree, and Joaquin Quinche, a Quechua Indian from Ecuador who now lives in Seattle, Quinche said. Quinche, a flute musician, sold CD recordings of his music, in addition to wooden flutes, clothing and other items.

Jack sold what she called a “conglomeration of things made by her family,” such as embroidered shoulder bags, smoked Columbia River salmon, cedar bark baskets and buckskin refrigerator magnets. It, too, was her first time at the Longhouse and the holiday native art fair.

“It’s a lovely building,” she said. “You can feel all the culture and art.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403