DC Living Earth Festival Highlights Native Performances, Food and Culture

Living Earth Festival. Source: Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC.
Living Earth Festival. Source: Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC.

Free Three-Day Festival Includes Native Cooking Symposium, Food Tastings and Artist Demonstrations

Released by Lisa Austin  and Casey Smith, Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian brings the best of traditional knowledge and traditions to visitors during its seventh annual Living Earth Festival July 15, 2016, through July 17, 2016. This year’s festival focuses on traditional agricultural practices and the importance of Native foods and includes a screening of two Seasoned with Spirit episodes, a Native chef cooking symposium, musical performances, and artist demonstrations.

The full schedule is available on the museum’s website. The National Museum of the American Indianis located at 4th Street and Independence Ave SW, in Washington DC.

Music, Dance and Film

Traditional songs and powwow-style dances will be presented by Tinkus Llajtaymanta, Tradiciones Bolivanas and Grupo Etina who will perform daily at 1pm and 4pm in the Potomac Atrium. During “Music and Dance Along the Inka Road,” the groups will perform traditional dances of Bolivia and the Andes accompanied by traditional instruments.

In the museum’s Rasmuson Theater, two episodes of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Seasoned with Spirit, “Return of the Buffalo—Lakota” and “Cuisine of the Desert Southwest—Tohono Oo’dham,” will be showcased Saturday afternoon.


On Friday at 2pm, the festival will feature the symposium “Chefs’ Conversation: Celebrating Healthy Native Foods” in the Rasmuson Theater. Chefs Loretta Barrett Oden (Citizen Band Potawatomi), Velvet Button (Tohono O’odham), Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz (Xicana/Tiwa) and Terri Ami (Hopi/Navajo) will discuss sustainable farming practices, food sovereignty and the decolonization food movement. Oden, host of Seasoned with Spirit, will moderate.

After the symposium, there will be wine tasting with the Cedar Band of Paiutes in the Mitsitam Coffee Bar.

Native Cooking

Throughout the festival, daily food demonstrations will be conducted by mother–daughter team Ramona and Velvet Button, featuring heirloom foods grown on Ramona Farms, located on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Ariz. Chefs will incorporate this year’s featured food, potatoes, in their dishes. Recipes will be available to visitors.

Artist Demonstrations

Bead workers, basket makers, sculptors, weavers, potters and carvers will demonstrate their art in the Potomac Atrium. This year’s artists include Porfirio Gutierrez (Oaxacan), a traditional weaver that uses all-natural plants and insect dyes; Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag), an artist that creates naturally dyed milkweed weavings and wampum jewelry from the quahog shell; Jesus Garcia, a cultural interpreter at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum who will demonstrate the art and science of weaving horsehair and agave rope; and Joey Lopez(Tohono O’odham) will demonstrate basket weaving using unique materials.

Shelden Nuñez-Velarde (Jicarilla Apache) will demonstrate making micaceous pottery and basket weaving and Wilma and Dena Skenandore (Potawatomi/Oneida) will demonstrate the healing qualities of their essential oils, creams and salves.

For more details about the festival, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu. Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use the hashtag #LivingEarth.

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Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.