Friday, July 30, 2010

Twilight (yes, THAT Twilight) in the Northwest

Love them or hate them, the Twilight series of novels and movies has brought attention to Washington’s coastline and the small towns of Forks and LaPush. But what we don’t often think about is the attention that it has brought to the Quileute tribe, featured prominently in this story.

For those of you who’ve never read the series, it features a character named Jacob Black. Jacob is a Quileute who has the ability to transform, along with many other tribal members, into a werewolf.

Of her character, Stephenie Mayer says on her website:
“Lots of people give me more credit than I deserve; they think I knew Jacob was a werewolf from the very beginning. This is not the case. Twilight was supposed to be a stand alone novel, remember. There was no thought of werewolves in my mind as I wrote it. The Quileute (Quill-yoot) legends Jacob tells Bella in chapter six of Twilight are all genuine Quileute stories that I learned when I was researching the tribe (which is a real tribe with a truly fascinating and mystical history). All actual Quileute legends, except for the vampire myth about the 'cold ones.' I latched onto the wolf story (the actual Quileute legend claims that the tribe descended from wolves transformed by a sorcerer) because it fit with my sketchy knowledge of vampires and werewolves always being at each others' throats (ha ha, pun intended).” (Read the rest here)

But what are the actual stories behind the wolves of Twilight? From the WSHS permanent collection, two animal totem masks and a ceremonial drum are on loan to the Seattle Art Museum, as part of a new exhibition examining the Hollywood-style fiction of the wolf as a Native American animal totem in the movie Twilight.

The History Museum is lending both a wolf- and bird-head masks used by the Quileute tribe in dance ceremonies, dating to the late 19th century in the southwest corner of the Clallam County region of Washington State. Comparisons between the film’s use of the wolf as a mythological creature with the real cultural associations the animal has for the Quileute tribe are graphically depicted with the help of masks like these. The Seattle Art Museum’s exhibition, Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves, runs from August 14, 2010 – August 14, 2011.

So if you (or someone you know) is on Team Jacob, consider checking out this exhibition to find out the real story.

More information about native culture and the Behind the Scenes exhibit can be found on the web at the following places:
To learn more about Native culture, visit the History Museum’s In the Spirit: Contemporary Northwest Native Arts Exhibition on display through September 19. A corresponding festival with salmon bake, performances, art sale, and more, is August 7 and 8, 10 AM-5 PM daily at the History Museum in downtown Tacoma. Check out for details about the “In the Spirit” celebration.

- Gwen

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