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January 23, 2014

Suquamish Delegates and Burke Museum Depart for the Philippines

Cultural Exchange between the Suquamish Tribe and El Nido, Palawan, Philippines focuses on cultural heritage, and sustainable fishing and archaeology
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Seattle – This week, seven representatives of the Suquamish Tribe are in the Philippines. Over the course of eight days, they will visit communities on Palawan Island and learn about the archaeological history of the island, as well as its modern day challenges to preserve natural resources in the face of tremendous growth in both tourism and development. The visit is part of “Ancient Shores, Changing Tides,” a project that is part of the Museums Connectsm program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.

The Suquamish delegation’s trip to the Philippines follows on the heels of a visit seven heritage enthusiasts from the Philippines made to Seattle and Suquamish this past October. During their eight-day stay in Washington, the Filipino delegates learned about museum curation and collection practices through guided tours of several museums in the region: the Burke Museum, Wing Luke Museum, Suquamish Museum, and the Makah Museum and Cultural Resource Center.

In addition to comparing their community museums, the ways in which their heritage is preserved, and local efforts to attract tourism, the Filipino and Suquamish groups are also comparing their fisheries management practices. The Filipino delegates were able to go out with Suquamish Seafoods divers to see geoducks being harvested. When they visit El Nido, the Suquamish delegates will travel through a community-managed marine protected area to see how those practices are helping fish stocks to recover in an area threatened by dynamite fishing, overfishing, and climate change. 

The sustainable fishing component has led to some rather delicious opportunities. At a traditional foods feast held at the House of Awakened Culture in Suquamish, more than 200 people gathered to enjoy a feast featuring locally-harvested geoducks, salmon and Manila clams. On Palawan, the delegates will be able to taste grouper, dolphinfish, anchovy, squid, crabs and more. There, locally harvested fish, seafoods, shellfish, and seaweeds will all be prepared according to traditional Cuyonon techniques.

The travelers representing Suquamish are tribal chair Leonard Forsman and his wife Jana Rice; tribal elder Jay Mills; Suquamish Museum director Janet Smoak; the Suquamish Tribe's youth programs director Kate Ahvakana; the Tribe's grants coordinator Angela Flemming; and Tribal member Kah-ty-ah Lawrence. Travelers representing the Burke Museum are project manager Lace Thornberg, associate director Peter Lape and community relations director Ellen Ferguson.

With this trip coming in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan, there is certain to be a lot of discussion between the groups about recovery efforts—and how to build communities that are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

When the Filipino delegates rode the Bainbridge Island ferry back to Seattle from Suquamish, they witnessed something few Seattleites have been lucky enough to see: orcas in south Puget Sound. These majestic animals had also accompanied the ferry that was carrying Suquamish artifacts from the Burke Museum to the new Suquamish Museum the day before. Perhaps the delegates from Suquamish will be lucky enough to see a manatee – known locally as a dugong – make a rare appearance while they travel El Nido's waters. 

“Ancient Shores, Changing Tides” is one of ten Museums Connectsm programs taking place throughout the country this year. The mission of the Museums Connect program is to strengthen connections and understanding between people in the United States and abroad through innovative, museum-based exchanges that address critical needs or timely issues in museums’ local communities and help museums better serve the public. 

For high resolution photos and interviews, contact burkepr@uw.edu.

About Museums Connect: Museums Connectsm is made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.

Ancient Shores, Changing Tides, a Museums Connect sm project, is funded [in part] by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Alliance of Museums. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

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Background on the Museums Participating in the “Ancient Shores, Changing Tides” Museums Connectsm Project:

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

The Burke Museum is the premiere museum of natural history and cultural heritage in the Pacific Northwest. The museum is responsible for Washington State collections of natural and cultural heritage and sharing the knowledge that makes these objects meaningful. Located on the University of Washington campus, the Burke serves its community with collections, research, exhibitions, and educational programs in three scientific divisions: anthropology, biology, and geology. The Burke holds nationally ranked collections in each of these divisions and is particularly well known for Northwest Coast and Alaskan Native art, holding the country’s fifth largest such collection. The Burke is a leader in developing collaborative exhibits and programs with partner communities throughout the Pacific.

Palawan State University Museum

The mission of the Palawan State University Museum is to preserve, protect and disseminate Palawanʼs heritage. More than 2,000 ethnographic and archaeological materials are held in the museumʼs collection, with display areas showcasing Palawanʼs flora and fauna. Located on the Palawan State University campus, students use this museum for their museum appreciation and cultural resource management classes, while Puerto Princessa City residents take part in public activities including the Indigenous People Month exhibition, music and dances, an archaeology week celebration, and lectures on Palawan culture.

Suquamish Museum

A new museum facility, completed in 2012, houses the Suquamish Museum and Cultural Center just up the hill from the Old-Man-House village site. Set in a natural landscape of native plants, the space reflects the traditional Big House architecture of the Coast Salish. This Gold LEED building houses the Suquamish Tribes collections of artifacts, photographs and manuscripts. The public areas offer permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, research space, education rooms, and a museum store.

Balay Cuyonon [the House of Cuyonon Culture]

Located in Sibaltan, El Nido, Palawan, the Balay Cuyonon is a place where curiosity about the past is cultivated in order to build a better future. The Balay Cuyonon is traditionally-built bamboo structure with a thatch roof made of Nipa palm filled with all the items that one might find in a Cuyonon home at the turn of the 20th century.

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"Ancient Shores, Changing Tides" participants in the Suquamish Museum. L to R: Janet Everts Smoak, Barbara Lawrence-Piecuch, Arvin Acosta, Carmelita Acosta, Robert Arevalo, Mariel Francisco, Enrico Cabiguen (2nd row), Mimi Cabral, Jun Cayron (1st row), Mary Barnes, Lace Thornberg.
Photo by Wade Trenbeath.
Members of the Suquamish community will soon visit Sibaltan, El Nido, Palawan, a Cuyonon fishing village in the Philippines.
Photo by Wade Trenbeath