Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quileute Response to TWILIGHT

Pasting below an extended excerpt from a New York Post article. Called "Vampire Vacation: Twilight Fans Turn a Quiet Indian Reservation into an Unwitting Tourist Mecca," it is the first time I've seen a Quileute response to Twilight. The news article was posted online at 1:32 AM on July 5th, 2009.

"Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer chose Forks after Googling for the rainiest place in America and was pleased to find the Quileute nearby. 
Locals marvel at how much she got right, but the economically depressed reservation is ambivalent about "Twilight" and how its 350 residents should capitalize on it. Compared to Forks, where visitors can pose with Bella's truck and participate in a "Twilight" look-alike contest, the reservation is cloaked in centuries-old anonymity. 
"There are mixed feelings," says tribal council member Anna Rose Counsell. Over the last three months, the tribe has struggled over what to do. "This is a phenomenon that is happening whether we like it or not." 
Tribal leaders hired a p.r. pro, Jackie Jacobs, in February after being inundated with "Twilight" inquiries. The tribe opened its Wednesday night drum circle to all visitors, which recently included two families of "Twilight" fans. 
At the tribe-owned Oceanside Resort, director Renee Rux says business is up 30 percent, thanks to "Twilight." "It's been huge for us," Rux says. The resort recently partnered with a charter boat company to offer "Twilight" tour packages for $250. 

At the moment, the shop stocks few "Twilight" souvenirs, including hand-knit hats emblazoned with "Bella," "Jacob" and "Edward." Another holds $8 bottles of sand, labeled "Jacob's Treasure. 
Rux, a non-native, retrained the staff to reach out to visitors. "That's the paradigm shift," she says. "People [now] want that experience of being with the Quileute."
A hospitality industry veteran, Rux promised to add $1 million to the resort's $2 million in revenue when she was hired last September. It's just not clear how much the Quileute people want to share their culture for profit. 

Hospitality is an ingrained part of their culture, but elders are worried about building a tourist economy. They fret about how their creation story is portrayed in the book. The tribe says they were changed from wolves to humans by a traveler. Meyer took literary liberty, enabling them to change back at will in an eternal battle against vampires. 
"This is our opportunity to educate people on Quileute history," Counsell says. 

At the Wednesday drum circle, artist and grandmother Ann Penn-Charles works up a sweat in the kitchen while a group of men sing traditional songs. More than 75 people have come on this night for the tribe's free dinner and music. 
Quileute artists take pride in harvesting their own materials, whether it's raw animal sinew for a drum or cedar bark for baskets. Penn-Charles says she's felt judged by some tribal members because she knits the names of "Twilight" characters into traditional cowichin hats. They sell for $50 at the resort store, or $25 directly from her. 
"They're resentful. They think we're selling out," Penn-Charles says. "It's not. It makes your car payment, or those braces your kids need." 
The tribe has hired a business developer, Justin Finkbonner, who also spearheads a crusade to market Quileute and other native artists. 
"We have so many talented artists here, so many untapped," Counsell says. "They don't know how to market." 
In Forks, Chinook Pharmacy owner Chuck Carlson, agrees. He's seen a 20 percent jump in business thanks to "Twilight" merchandise, but the store only carries one Quileute craft -- tiny hand-woven cedar baskets that sit behind a glass case and sell for $49. 
"They need to take more advantage of what's going on," Carlson says. "I don't think they understand how to do that." 

In particular, he feels the tribe should profit from the tour buses that rumble through the reservation. "I would be saying, 'Hey, you're coming down here, you're making a lot of money off us. You need to share some of that profit.' " 
The tribe is now talking about working with tour operator Dazzled by Twilight. Its evolution as a business likely will only grow as the rest of the books are made into movies. In later books, the Quileutes' role becomes nearly as prominent as the Cullens'. 
Fans of La Push hope visitors who come for "Twilight" will learn to appreciate the area's natural allure. That could help connect the Quileutes to more sustainable tourism, such as fishing trips with a Native American guide, kayak rentals and eateries focused on fresh seafood that will attract culinary tourists. 
Tribal publicist Jacobs practically scoffs at questions about what the Quileutes will do once "Twilight" fades. 
"The Quileute have traced their ancestry to the Ice Age," she says. "One day, 'Twilight' will go away and they will continue being the hospitable, welcoming people they've always been, practicing the culture they have been practicing for tens of thousands of years.

Some time back, I saw something that said cast members would be at Quileute Days July 17-19th, but there is nothing about it on the tribe's website and no mention of it in the news story above.

Update, October 23, 2009

Want to see more that I've written about Twilight? Try...
"Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT" (May 19, 2008)
"Meyer's TWILIGHT, Second Post" (May 25, 2008)
Terrific essays about Meyer's character "Jacob" (June 30, 2008)
"Has Stephenie Meyer read this?" (Oct 23, 2009)


Anonymous said...

One day Twilight will go away....Twilight doesn't bring people any closer to the Aboriginal/Native American people of Turtle Island....its not a paradigm shift but its a seduction that people will pay for the thrill of....its another distortion of indigeneity that redeems the western historical legacy but more particularily capitalizes on the spiritual emptiness that the Mormon author is feeding on....lining her pocket book. The real vampires are the novelists and film makers who suck the emotions from people through text and visual arts leaving them even more empty than they were before....hungry for another virtual fix...vampirism does that...thank goodness the books are a fade...in fact my European students didn't even want to write about it in my children's literature course because they found it is so unsophisticated they questioned the lack of discernment of the American teenage mind....its a fade and it will pass....that is a long run perspective....in the short run the girls will drive the star crazy...because vampirism blurs the boundaries even more...vampirism/canabalism is alive and well in the novels for the children of americas....

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I've been waiting for something like this article to come out. I've used the Twilight books to talk to some of our young Native women about relationships. The connection we all have with Twilight has been amazing and I hope the Quileutte are able to manage and govern through this sudden celebrity the way that they feel is best for them. I wish you and the Quileutte the very best.

Samia said...

I really appreciated this post. This is a side of the whole Twilight craze that I had not thought about. I had been thinking only about the harmfulness of Twilight's messages about heterosexual romance. I am inclined to agree with the first commenter. While I wish the Quileute the best in dealing with this sudden influx of "interested" parties, I sincerely doubt many Twilight fans are interested in real education about any of the history or contemporary issues facing their people.

I'm frustrated because some of my white friends love these books, and they're "progressive" 20-something "adults!"

I'm glad I found this site. I was looking for a critique of the Little House on the Prairie series from a Native/indigenous point of view and ended up here. What a wonderful place!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to feel about this. For the most part I feel like this phenomenon is turning the Quileute tribe into something of a tourist attraction, which brings back shocking memories of our historical past when Native Americans were displayed in museums as novelties, tourist attractions (Geronimo I believe was subjected to this until he contracted TB and died). So, I don't blame the tribe for not wanting to participate. On the other hand, it makes economic sense to profit while you can. It's kind of a catch 22.

Anonymous said...

There is a pretty good report on tourism and the Quileute here: nativecases.evergreen.edu/collection/cases/twilight.html

It mostly focuses on the Quileute themselves coping with the attention, but there is a liitle bit too about depiction by Meyer.