To celebrate Seattle's third Indigenous Peoples Day, Town Hall will present a free performance of Listen to Seattle, a 75-minute program of stories and music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble at 7:30pm on October 10. The program culls the history of Chief Seattle and his continued significance to the region, country, and world. Commissioned through a 4Culture Site-Specific Grant, it premiered at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center in 2015. Town Hall has donated the venue and staff. Will you help pay for the performing artists so that anyone can attend free of charge?
The ensemble consists of saxophonist Steve Griggs, trumpeter Jay Thomas, vibraphonist Susan Pascal, bassist Phil Sparks, and percussionist Milo Petersen. Special guest James Rasmussen joins on tribal drum and flugelhorn. Rasmussen is a Duwamish tribal member, attended Berklee College of Music, and is the coordinator of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition Technical Advisory Group. The ensemble has twice won the Chamber Music America/ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming in Contemporary Music. The ensemble also performs a free site-specific program about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII at 2pm every second Saturday of the month at the Panama Hotel.
Background: Chief Seattle nurtured a peaceful relationship between Native Americans and white settlers in the mid 1800’s. His speech to the Washington territorial governor Isaac Stevens emphasized the eternal ancestral spirits that inhabit the natural world. Chief Seattle’s words became a touchstone for the environmental movement more than a century later.
Yet, the government of the city that bears his name forbade Indians from living inside city limits. The Duwamish people, his matriarchal lineage, are still not recognized by the Federal Government as a tribe. The river bearing his tribal name is a Superfund site, polluted by manufacture of B-17s during WWII, a century of human wastewater, and decades of urban runoff.
Chief Seattle’s example of making peace between indigenous and aggressor, along with his words of human symbiosis with the natural world are vital today to provide hope for the future. How can crucial lessons from Chief Seattle be brought to today’s teaming metropolis on the land of his ancestors? Despite the subhuman treatment of the indigenous people by the newcomers, Chief Seattle was for a long time able to maintain positive relationships. The events of Seattle’s life provide vital lessons about American identity, inter-racial relationships, and human impact on nature. The city’s current development of the waterfront provides an opportunity to connect contemporary residents with an ancient relationship to nature and orientation to the region’s ancestry.
Risks and challenges
The venue and staff have been pledged and are committed. The music and script are complete. This will be a repeat of the premiere performance about a year ago. The artists are booked. A rehearsal is being scheduled. Publicity plans are in place. The Duwamish tribe will be involved in educational efforts. I don't yet have a videographer selected. If equipment malfunctions then I will have to wait until the next staging of this program to document the work.