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  • Coleen Graybill

World Premier of “Curtis Comes Back to Seattle” by Vaun Raymond

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

L: George Montero introduces the world premier of "Curtis Comes Back to Seattle."

R: Vaun Raymond with Mary Lou Slaughter and John Graybill

Vaun Raymond has filmed many of the past year’s activities in Seattle surrounding the Sesquicentennial celebration of Edward Sherriff Curtis’ birth. It is only fitting that this incredible 90-minute documentary be world premiered on Edward’s 151st birthday!

The evening started with George Montero playing several different flutes. He played so beautifully! Jeff Smith then gave a wonderful introduction to Vaun and the making of the film. It was 90 minutes of John and Coleen smiling… except for the tears that flowed at the end of the documentary by Ken Workman, of the Duwamish Nation. 

I want you to read Ken’s words slowly. He spoke them slowly and with such heart. It’s meaning will be lost if you speed-read this. And then, with the last sentence, I want you to imagine, Ken’s eyes getting teary. It certainly made tears fall for John. Hearing first hand, that a Descendant of Curtis’ work was so very thankful for it, really moved him.

“I think Edward Curtis recognized that these people that have lived here for thousands of years, are being removed. So, he was recording for history, for our sake, my ancestors. He recorded what the land looked like and what the people looked like prior to colonization. So I can go, “ohhhh yeaaa”, there’s my great-great-great aunt. I am very grateful for that. 

My predominate feeing when I look at the Edward Curtis photographs, is one of thankfulness. I am thankful that he was able to capture at that moment in time, a transition, and a collision of societies. I have a warm feeling when I look at them because I am looking at people that used to be here.  I would hope that people would look at his pictures and go “ohhh yea”, there were once people here that looked like this, and realize that those people are still here today. 

We are now modern Indians and we still carry our traditional ways. So, things are changing. Just a little while ago when Curtis arrived in Seattle, it was illegal for us to be here and because of this Beyond the Frame exhibit and the 150-yearanniversary, it feels okay to be a native person in Seattle. So maybe we don’t have to hide so much any more, and maybe I can talk…  in my own language… (saying in Lushootseed) “Thank you Curtis for the work you put in on these picture things.”

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