“Voices of Indigenous Artists”: Greg Archuleta–Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

“Voices of Indigenous Artists”: Greg Archuleta–Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde


[MUSIC PLAYING] NIKOLYN GARNER: So I’m
here with Greg Archuleta, who is a member of The
Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and also a wonderful artist. GREG ARCHULETA: Thank you. NIKOLYN GARNER: So
I wanted to ask you, how did you get your
start as an artist? GREG ARCHULETA: I started, probably,
fairly seriously, probably, in the early 2000s, and pretty
much since then, just kind of been developing and
primarily doing– focusing on the art of the
Columbia River, Western Oregon, working with Greg Robinson,
and teaching the art form. So that started when we started
the classes in 2005, here in the Portland area. NIKOLYN GARNER: Wonderful. You work in various mediums. I’m admiring the wood
carving on your necklace, and then also your wonderfully
detailed, beautifully done basket-woven hat. So you talked a little bit about the
different mediums that you work in? GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah,
so we work with carving. As I mentioned, the
Columbia River art form, primarily the art form of the
Western Oregon traditional art forms. And then also do basketry,
again, of Western Oregon-focused on the Western Oregon
basketry styles, and that’s both traditional and
contemporary, like the cedar hat is more contemporary. So I do a lot of work in those
areas and art design, so. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah. So tell me a little bit
about what your artwork– what you’re trying to
say with your artwork? GREG ARCHULETA: I
think the primary is that the reason that started the
Lifeways classes was because there was so little, very few
opportunities tied to Western Oregon, the traditional art
forms in this area, which included the Chinookan
people that lived here in the Portland area, the Calapooia
people, the Willamette Valley. And then we have tribes at Grand
Ronde from Southern Oregon, including the Umpquas and
the Rogue River, Shasta. We have some Tillamook
people, Molalla people. So all those tribes
from Western Oregon were pretty underrepresented in
the art forms that you see today. And so I wanted to kind of focus
and emphasize and bring back some of those styles
and practices, so that’s kind of what we’ve been working on. And our classes are– initially, were primarily
tied to tribal members. And then here in the Portland
area, there was few opportunities, and so we wanted to
provide something up here in the Portland area,
as well, as then, tying into what was
happening at Grand Ronde. And then we were
able to actually then go to different places
like Eugene and Salem also, and provide classes. Then we had the opportunity to work
with the Northwest Indian College, and so we became more intertribal,
opened up the classes, and we’ve been that way ever since. And then we– so we
kind of do a foundation of kind of some basic techniques. But if a person’s from
a different tribe, then we really want them
to build their skills working with their specific
tribe that they are– so. NIKOLYN GARNER: That’s
really wonderful. GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah. GREG ARCHULETA: And we’ve had some
[? needed ?] success with that, so. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah. So what are some of
the themes and issues that you find yourself pursuing
in your own personal work? GREG ARCHULETA: My art
work, I’m– in my family, I’m tied to the Clackamas Chinook,
Cascades or [? Coquille ?] Chinooks, and Willamette Tumwaters. And my family, we had a
village there at West Linn, at the falls there. So [? I’m ?] very focused on the
Chinookan people of this area, and then with the Calapooia, Shasta
tribe that I’m connected with– and so kind of focus
on those, a lot of it focuses on the Columbia River. And so it’s really place-based,
just focused on place. And there’s a lot of art
that came from this area. The Chinookan people did a
lot of the salt carvings, and so a lot have been
found in this area. You have wood, which not
as much has survived, but wood-carving was fairly common– bone antler pieces and
even clay from this area, ceramic pieces from this area. So we try to work with
those kind of medium. Primarily here in the
classroom, we do wood and we’ll do printmaking
tied to art design, and building their carving
skills, things like that. And then we do the basketry,
and that’s pretty broad. We work with a lot of
different materials. Cedar is pretty common,
but we also work with roots like spruce root and pine root. NIKOLYN GARNER: Local– GREG ARCHULETA: We work
with sweet grass, which is a sedge triangle,
a sedge that comes from the freshwater,
saltwater areas, so different materials like that. NIKOLYN GARNER: You try to
focus on local materials? GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah, yeah. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah. GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah. And then we do both– do some of the traditional
kind of styles, but a lot more– and then a lot of
contemporary kind of pieces, also. NIKOLYN GARNER: Mm-hmm, yeah. So tell me a little
bit about your process. GREG ARCHULETA: What I like to do– I’ll give an example,
like in basketries. For instance, people come into
class and say, I want to make a hat. And I said, well, that’s
good, but I usually want them to build their
basic skills for that, so learning to work with
the cedar, how to prep it. There’s the process of gathering
it, which you gather the cedar bark. Usually, you’re gathering
a year ahead of time. You let it set for the
year, and then you’re ready to begin working with it. So then you’ve got to
learn how to split it, both for thickness and for width. So giving them those skills
to learn how to work with it and how the cedar behaves
when you’re weaving with it, and things like that. So we give them some simpler kind
of things to kind of make and stuff, so they– and then just really
build up from there. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah. GREG ARCHULETA: And then
the other thing is that we– in our classes, they’re open. We don’t say– we don’t do six
weeks of, say, carving a bowl. But we let people really focus
on the interest areas they have. So if they want to focus on
carving, they can focus on carving, build their skills in carving. Or if they want to do basketry,
they can focus on the basketry and build their skills there. And then some will switch to be a
little bit of carving for a while, and then do some basketry. So like that, so it’s
not really structured. It’s really them working at their
pace and in their interest areas. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah, and it sounds
like a more exploratory process– GREG ARCHULETA:
Yeah, for them, yeah. NIKOLYN GARNER: Yeah, yeah. So what has been your
favorite project to work on? GREG ARCHULETA: My favorite project? NIKOLYN GARNER: Mm-hmm. GREG ARCHULETA: [CHUCKLES]
Primary, probably, I like the working with the art
design and carving, I think. And then, myself, I do
a lot of other stuff, so I don’t get to spend my full
time carving, or doing the art form. But when I can, that’s usually
what I like to kind of focus. But I do a big variety. When we do the class,
[? Greg ?] pretty much focuses on the carving element
and I’ll get the basketry part. And then we [? tie. ?]
For the basketry, we’ll actually go out and do
the gathering of the materials, and things like that,
too, with the classes. And so we take them
out to different places and either gather the cedar,
or juncus, or sweet grass, the spruce root, things like that. NIKOLYN GARNER: Mm-hmm,
yeah, and gathering is very much part of the process. GREG ARCHULETA: Yes, yes, yeah. NIKOLYN GARNER: So I’ve heard
you talk about connection to place as part of your artwork. Will you talk a little bit more
about your personal connection and your cultural connection
to this place that we are in– the Portland area, the
Columbia River area? GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah, so as I
was mentioning, the art form– there’s a lot of art that came from
this area and it wasn’t really– they didn’t have a term for art. It was just part of
the everyday living. If they were making
a basket, or doing a carving that had a certain
purpose or use, things like that. So I just really like to focus on– we don’t recreate pieces, but we
take elements from the old art form and then integrate them into
what we’re making today. So there are certain kinds of things
that are kind of common in the art form, such as carving triangles. And it makes a zig-zag
kind of pattern. The eyes, eye-nose have certain
kind of regular features in a lot of art. And so kind of those
common elements– the ribs that are portrayed
in an art form, and things like that– skeletal form. So those kinds of things we
use and we kind of integrate into who we’re making today. NIKOLYN GARNER: Mm, kind of tie it
to past practices, as well as how your own personal– GREG ARCHULETA: Right, right– NIKOLYN GARNER: –take on it. GREG ARCHULETA: Yeah. NIKOLYN GARNER: Well, thank
you so much for sharing all of your perspectives,
and also sharing about these wonderful
educational programs that you’ve been so much a part of. It’s been wonderful to
hear about all of them. GREG ARCHULETA: All
right, thank you. NIKOLYN GARNER: Thank you. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *