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November 15, 2011
Burke Museum Curator Collaborates with Quileute Tribe to Address Misconceptions
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Seattle – Made famous by the Twilight book and film saga, the Quileute Tribe of northwest Washington has been thrust into the global spotlight. Their reservation, a once-quiet and somewhat isolated place, is now a popular tourist destination for thousands of middle-school-age girls and their families. In the wake of this pop-culture phenomenon, the Quileute Tribe has been forced to negotiate the rights to their own oral histories, ancient regalia and mask designs, and even the sanctity of their cemetery.
In response to the portrayal of the Quileute people in the book and film saga Twilight, Burke Museum Curator of Native American Ethnology Dr. Deana Dartt-Newton—in collaboration with the Quileute Tribe—created “Truth versus Twilight.” This new website seeks to inform Twilight fans, parents, teachers, and others about the real Quileute culture. While the Tribe does have a wolf origin story and an historic relationship with the wolf, it is also a modern, multi-dimensional community with a sophisticated governance system.
The premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I, the fourth in the series of Twilight movies, on Friday, November 18, will re-focus the attention of fans and the general public on the fictional Quileute “werewolves" created by series author Stephenie Meyer.
Truth vs. Twilight: Top Misconceptions about the Quileutes
The Quileute origin story involves men turning into wolves
The most salient misrepresentation of Quileute culture is Meyer’s fabrication of a fictional origin story, in which “the first great Spirit Chief in [Quileute] history,” used magical animal shape shifting powers to turn into a werewolf and defend Quileute land from Vampires (Eclipse, 245). The true Quileute origin story differs greatly—but because it is relatively unknown, the books effectively rewrite the public’s conception of the Quileute into that of magical werewolves.
You can find Billy Black holding tribal council meetings on First Beach
While stereotypical depictions of Native Americans often include Indians in headdresses living in tipis, many visitors to La Push are disappointed to find ordinary people living very familiar lives. The Quileute are welcoming to Twilight fans who want to visit the sites in the stories—and have listed their calendar of events on their website—but don't expect packs of shirtless teenagers hanging out on street corners.
Quileute women are passive and subservient
Emily Young, the most prominent Native female character in Twilight, is presented as caretaker and cook to the "pack" of Quileute wolves/boys. In reality, Native women are often household decision-makers, as well as prominent leaders on Tribal Councils (such as the current Quileute Chairwoman, Bonita Cleveland) and in their communities.
Exposure from the films has benefitted the Quileute's financially
The phenomena of the Twilight series has had vast economic benefits for Summit Entertainment, Stephenie Meyer, the tiny town of Forks, Washington, and even Nordstrom department stores, but the Tribe whose culture was represented for background fodder in the teenage love story has seen little benefit.
For more information, please visit Truth versus Twilight.
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