Thursday, February 26, 2009


"All journeys have secret destinations
of which the traveler is unaware"

-T.S. Elliot

The bags packed - check, traveling schedule in order - check. Concerns
and stresses packed, but easy accessible - check. Armed with every "check" humanly possible, check, check.

Have you ever started off on a journey with preconceived notions of
how a trip should - will be? Each day planned out to the minute? At
3:34 pm the plane lands and by 4:10 pm the rental car will be
available. No doubt there's comfort in knowing things are going as
planned, but the trip to Seattle reminded me that an itinerary rarely
recognizes the rich texture of human behavior.

In our last blog installment entitled "Seattle Bound". The main
purpose of the trip to Seattle was to interview one of the NMAI
Sculpture competition selectors, Native Architect, John Paul Jones. We
interviewed Mr. Jones and got some truly important words from him. However in the end, it was the leaving of a familiar routine, entering the unknown and allowing serendipitous events to guide us into a wondrous landscape of events that made the journey extraordinary.


Before we left for Seattle Mr. Jones sent me several examples of work
done by his Architectural firm in the Seattle area. I contacted the
director of one of the sites in downtown Seattle and lucky for us we
were invited to tour the Monterey House. The Monterey House is an
historic building renamed The Chief Seattle Club after renovations
were completed by John Paul's firm. The Chief Seattle Club is now a
homeless shelter and gathering place for Native people. Janine Grey,
the director of the shelter took time away from her week-end to show
us around.The Chief Seattle Club was designed from an environmentally conscious perspective, recycled materials were incorporated into the design and great care was taken to weave Northwest Coast culture and sensibilities into the layout of the building.

Thoughtful and smart, Ms. Grey passionately spoke about the shelter and how the design of the building truly reflected cultural values needed to reassure and honor everyone who entered the Chief Seattle Club. Ms. Grey words seamlessly wove into John Paul's interview creating a central focuses on community, culture and creating which of course are all themes relative to the ideas within Always Becoming.

Squaxin Island is two hours south of Seattle and is surrounded by
water and dense woodlands. We met up with John Paul Jones at a
gathering hosted by the Longhouse at the Evergreen State College, The
First People's Fund
out of South Dakota and The First Generation Fund. The gathering of Native people from several regions of the country was entitled," Creating - Migration - Change". Seventy Native artists, organizers and scholars spent two days discussing the ideas of creating from a cultural perspective and how this process effects change within indigenous communities. Elders from near by tribes told origin stories, an Indigenous rapper from East L.A versed and every single one of those seventy people brought their culture and community, sharing with a generosity that humbled and inspired.

John Paul's interview was the impetus for our trip however, hidden in
the woodlands of the Squaxin Island, crafted in the Chief Seattle
Club's mission statement, we discovered a treasure trove of cultural
knowledge from Indigenous people dedicated to creating community, art and family. And from these people a cohesive cultural awareness resides no matter the Native experience. Professionals like John Paul Jones who hears his ancestor's voice every time he designs a building. City dwellers like Olmeca who rap defiance and elders who still smoke salmon on the reservation. One thing is clear, our ancestor's legacy is even more poignant, more purposeful then ever before, giving us the tools to continue.