Our Last Days With the Hoh

Posted on Jul 08, 2024

Happy Trails! Here's to the Hoh Reservation! by Faeble Kievman

Before we all sat down and ate dinner together, there were songs.  After we all sat down and ate dinner, there were songs. Fry bread passed around, paired with a delicious fish soup and lots of laughter. The chief and the locals sang and drummed dinner songs, thank you songs, and an appreciation song. They sang songs honoring the land and the traditions of the land and the people. 

We all took some time to talk and honor each other, sharing stories and thanks, exchanging handmade and precious gifts, both those we made and those handed down to us by elders and loved ones, some no longer with us. We each went around and said a little piece about why we are appreciative. Tears formed in people's eyes. 

Sometimes, in social circus, you go to a place and you see that while people appreciate your presence and goodwill, in the back of their mind, they kind of wish you weren't there. In this case you could clearly see that the Hoh Tribal community had a true sense of gratitude. They kept offering the same Thank You, Thank You So Much. Thank you for inspiration, thank you for the work you've done. After the Hoh Days event, our little community of travelers went around and cleaned up the grounds, making sure that the place was as spotless as can be. It felt good, although not expected, to receive some kind of validation of kindness. 

We were told that they are not used to having people come and clean up after events, and that there is usually a lot of work to do. We, Chautauqua, a social circus community, made a point to give back, offering handmade gifts and always offering a place at the table for all who came for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. That is part of the work, to bring people together, to give back.

At the end of the last night, the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra came together with a surprising performance. The last night with the Hoh was absolutely splendid. We began by playing an orchestral song, Ceremony, which was specifically composed for the Hoh Tribe, during a previous Chautauqua visit. 

We played four songs. There were five members of the Hoh community who honored us with their presence: hereditary chief Dave Hudson, Gene and Brian, Dorothy and Annette. Some performers joined in during the songs for a pop-up show performance that was sporadic and exciting, bringing out smiles from our hosts. Karl pulled out his juggling hat and started doing flips in the air catching it on his head while music played in the background. I (Faeble) came out to balance a chair and got stuck in it (as usual). This time I couldn't get out! At the end, there was one last performance: jar juggling. 

Knowing that you had put on a wonderful performance and seeing the smiles on the faces of our friends was so precious.  Hearing the laughter between everyone was something that will be remembered for the rest of my life. It's not every day that you get welcomed into an Indigenous community, even despite the systematic oppression that communities still face, up to to this day, by European settlers.

Danielle, who has been handling communications work and leading the community mural is staying behind, while the tour moves on.  She will continue working to complete this mural, with the assistance of Jorjan and the constant collaboration and guidance of local Hoh artist Bryan Cole.  The mural will be put up for the community to have a piece of Love given by us: something to feel proud of and look at as they pass by the tribal government offices. 

Sometimes it's really not about the amount of people who are there watching the show but the intention behind it. Performing out in nature, right there on the grass after dinner and seeing the laughter and joy come from everybody's face (both ours and theirs), was quite precious. 

This morning, as we packed up, tensions were high, as conversations had turned to political correctness and cultural sensitivities. Then there are issues around dividing our work: it turns out that we need to take a little bit more care when it comes to doing heavy labor, who is involved, and safety.  

Doing this kind of work, giving back to the community, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. While selfless work can be its own reward, we are probably hardwired as human beings to do things in exchange for something in return. After the end of the morning meeting, after we started getting back to work, we are at last able to move forward. I know that it's all going to be all right, despite any kind of disagreements. 

As we hit the road with the trees and the river around us we get to look back at this adventure it's another chapter in the book. With many more stories to be told and written about in the future with the Hoh Tribe

By Faeble Kievman