Quileute museum exhibit debunks Twilight movies

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) - An exhibit of 23 Quileute artworks intended to debunk the tall tales of tribal heritage told in the Twilight saga, will open at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian this week.

"Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves" will open in the Sealaska Gallery on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW in Washington, D.C., Friday and be on view through May 9.

During the exhibition's opening weekend, Chris Morganroth III, Quileute tribal member and one of only two fluent speakers left in the tribe, will tell traditional stories for children and families in the museum's imagiNATIONS Activity Center and present Quileute culture and stories in the Rasmuson Theater during the Native Storytelling Festival.

The exhibition was organized by the Quileute tribe and the Seattle Art Museum, where it was on view for one year, beginning in August 2010.

The exhibit brings together rare works of Quileute art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline depicted in the popular Twilight books and movies.

Wolves are an important part of Quileute legend.

But werewolves - as depicted in Stephenie Meyer's popular daydream set on the West End - never were part of the LaPush tribe's heritage.

According to oral traditions, the first Quileute people were changed from a pair of wolves into human form by the Transformer, Kwati.

Because of the creation legend, wolf imagery is prominent in Quileute art, and to this day, the tribe continues to enact masked dances to honor the original supernatural connection to wolves.

Among the pieces to be displayed in the Smithsonian exhibit are elaborate wolf headdresses, rattles, baskets and a whale-bone dance club.

"We welcome any opportunity we have to educate the world about the true story of the Quileute people," said Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland.

"The Quileute Tribal Council decided to take the global spotlight and attention we have received as a result of the Twilight phenomenon and share with the global audience our history, culture and traditions.

"The Smithsonian exhibit is the perfect forum to tell the authentic story of our people, and we are honored to have our ancestral items displayed at this prestigious venue."

Also on view will be historic drawings created by Quileute teens who attended the Quileute Day School at Mora from 1905 through 1908.

The drawings depict wolf ritual dances and shamanistic performances, house posts that were part of the Potlatch Hall and a whaling scene that shows a crew of eight men coming alongside a whale in their cedar canoe.

At one time, whaling was an important endeavor for the Quileute.

The exhibition also includes a map of Quileute language place names of the modern village and the vast aboriginal territories that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Olympic Mountains.

Also on display will be a time line of Quileute history and a 12-minute looped video that presents interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the effect of the "Twilight" films in their own words.

Replicas of items used in the "Twilight" films include a paddle necklace worn by the character Emily portrayed by actor Tinsel Korey, a traditional Quileute hand drum that hangs in Emily's house, a shell necklace of Olivella shells that was on the wall of her house and the dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella as a gift.

The National Museum of the American Indian, established in 1989, is the 18th museum of the Smithsonian Institution and is the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of Native Americans.