ICDP - AlaskaIndigenous Cultures Day at the Seattle Center gives indigenous peoples the opportunity to express their culture through performance, food, visual art, film, and other festive activities. The program is held annually in August and is free to the public. Last year, Indigenous Culture Day featured performances by Aztec, Filipino, Guelaguetza, Haida, Japanese, Maya, Panamanian, Peruvian, Tahitian, and Zapotec traditional dancers, representing North, Central, and South America as well as the islands of the Pacific. This year, the program will be held on Saturday, August 17, with events at the Seattle Center Armory and the Mural Amphitheatre from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Longhouse Media started the program in 2010, partnering with the Seattle Indian Health Board, the Northwest Cultural Center, and Red Eagle Soaring, a theater group for Native American youth. The goal of these organizations is to promote the value of all indigenous peoples and cultures. Traditional dances and music help to connect folks with their ancestors and celebrate the wide variety of indigenous cultures in the Seattle area. Everyone alive has ancestors who were indigenous to a particular region and practiced traditional lifestyles. Seattleites especially have many neighbors with strong bonds to their traditional lifestyles and cultures. By experiencing how these rich and varied cultures are all intimately connected with their land through food, music, clothing, and shelter, we can overcome some of the social barriers we face.
The ways in which traditional cultures conduct their daily lives may differ, but they all have one thing in common: they love having a good time and expressing creativity through cultural activities. Needless to say, culture is the cornerstone of Indigenous Cultures Day, but what makes this program unique is that no single culture is prioritized. The sole purpose of the event is to celebrate the variety of indigenous cultures. As part of the celebration, the program explores cultural change as well as cultural continuity through a film festival and performances of contemporary music, which express cultural growth and integration.
Too often, people who do not connect with their own indigenous ancestors may fail to understand how issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives also affect them. Many people believe that crises such as loss of culture, language, and land, which have a heavily negative impact on Native people in the U.S., can be better understood by people who make connections with their own indigenous ancestry.
The Seattle Indian Health Board attends about 150 events in King County each year to conduct outreach. They typically include announcements for Indigenous Cultures Day at these gatherings. They also publicize the event through posters, Facebook, Twitter, email, and surface mail.
The Seattle Center is the largest funder of this event, providing roughly $30,000 worth of in-kind services such as security, sound systems, and space, along with additional funds. The City of Seattle also provided $20,000 this year to pay for performers.
Indigenous organizations continually add to the experience. Representatives of new cultures are always present to add new activities and performers each year, contributing to a fresh look every time. For this year’s Indigenous Culture Day, we can look forward to a performance by Red Eagle Soaring at the EMP Musuem at Seattle Center. Red Eagle Soaring will present “As Long As the River Runs: A Musical About Salmon and the Indians Who Love Them.” Stop by and join the fun this August!

For more information, contact Lua Belgarde (luab@sihb.org) or call (206) 324-9360, extension #2295. For more about Red Eagle Soaring, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Red.Eagle.Soaring