The Lelooska Foundation - Archives

2007 Reception and Silent Auction

Story by Pat Nelson

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April 28, 2007
Lelooska Cultural Center
Ariel, Washington

April 28, 2007 - On a warm Saturday evening, 200 invited guests sat under towering fir trees, beside massive Rhododendrons in spectacular pink and white bloom. The visitors were there for the annual silent auction fundraiser at the Lelooska Cultural Center in Ariel.

A feast including smoked salmon, meatballs, cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables stretched from one side to the other across the back wall of the Lelooska Museum. Guests filled their plates...many more than once...and gazed at the museum's spectacular collection of more than 600 Native artifacts from North America while platters of homemade cookies made the rounds.

A large totem pole stands outside the museum, a reminder of the late Chief Lelooska, the master woodcarver whose totem poles stand on public display in places such as the waterfront at Port of Kalama, the Oregon Zoo, the Camas Public Library, downtown Longview, and the Skamania Lodge. The poles aren't just displayed locally. They can also be seen at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New York and in foreign countries including Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

The silent auction, held to raise funds to support the Lelooska Foundation's Living History Programs and the Lelooska Museum Collection, was held in the nearby Lelooska Gallery. Items up for bid included a miniature shaman's mask carved by Chief Tsungani, artwork by Nakwesee, Augustus, and the OtterBear Studio, a 450-million-year-old fossil, food and lodging certificates, plants, and more.

Guests lined up early outside the cedar ceremonial house, anxious to watch the living-history show. Inside, the aroma of cedar mingled with the scent of forty-seven years of ceremonial fires. As the doors were closed, eyes adjusted to the dark interior and daylight shined through knotholes in the walls.

Lelooska dancers draped in button blankets, some wearing elaborate Native American masks, danced barefooted on the dirt floor around a crackling fire. Two little girls danced around the fire in the women's dance, along with their moms and other ladies of the family.

The youngsters first participated in the women's dance at only one month old, being carried around the fire with their mothers. Now, joining in the dancing themselves, they perform three times a week in the school programs that run from late-March to mid-June. The three-year-old brother of one of the girls shook a rattle to call the dancers. "He's not yet willing to dance in front of a crowd," said his grandfather, Chief Tsungani, "but I've already carved his mask and it will be ready when he is."

Dancers performed in decorated blankets, furs, feathers, and giant carved wooden masks. The audience was amazed as complex masks transformed by opening up to reveal another face and then abruptly clapped shut.

After the show, dessert was served in the Museum. When the event was over, the scent of the campfire lingered and so did the memories of a magical evening.

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