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Record breaking crowds at Autry National Center

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LOS ANGELES – Nearly 3,000 visitors enjoyed a weekend of Native American history and culture at the Autry National Center. The weekend featured three major events including the annual Intertribal Arts Marketplace; the opening of the much-anticipated exhibition, “The Art of Native American Basketry: A Living Tradition;” and the kick-off of the 10th Anniversary season of Native Voices at the Autry with the play “Carbon Black” by Terry Gomez, Comanche.

“It is extraordinary to see the vast amount of support the Native American community from around the country has shown for the Autry and our programs. We are fortunate to celebrate Native American culture and heritage during the intertribal weekend and to provide several platforms for the diverse Native voices to be heard by all,” said John L. Gray, Autry National Center president and CEO.

A special blessing by the Gabrieleno/Tongva Tribe of San Gabriel opened the festivities at an exclusive reception and preview of the exhibition, “The Art of Native American Basketry: A Living Tradition.” The event was attended by more than 500 intertribal artists, Native Voices cast and crew, Autry members, and several of the basketry exhibition’s basketweaver consultants from around the country.

The festivities included the presentation of juried artist awards. The Jackie Autry Purchase Award was given to Mohawk artist Sosakete for his traditional Mohawk pottery. His piece will now be accessioned into the Autry’s permanent collection. Best in Show and Best Textile were awarded to TahNibaa Naataanii, Navajo, for her woven kilt.

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A packed members-only preview of the 125 Intertribal Arts Marketplace artists representing approximately 52 tribes kicked-off a busy weekend with lines forming at 10 a.m. More than 1,500 families and a diverse crowd of people from all over Los Angeles watched traditional dances by the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, Hoop Dancing by Terry Goedel and family, Powwow Dances by the Wild Horse Singers, and listened to the peaceful sounds of Native flute by Ed Kabotie.

Storytellers Jacque Nunez, Acjachemen; and Robert Greygrass, Lakota, entertained children and adults with traditional tribal stories. Hands-on family activities included making ledger art, basketry and arrowhead necklaces. A full-sized Lakota tipi brought by Rex “Wambli Sapa” Carolin, Cheyenne River Sioux, wowed visitors as they gazed at the towering tipi featuring painted buffalo.

A special treat was watching basketweaver Ruby Chimerica, Hopi, demonstrate the making of piki bread. The blue corn mixture was thinly spread across a flat black rock sitting atop a fire of cedar wood. Visitors were able to sample and purchase a bundle of piki bread and roasted blue corn to take home. Nov. 8 at Intertribal Arts Marketplace saw a crowd of more than 1,200, many of whom were first-time visitors and shoppers purchasing everything from turquoise and silver jewelry, Pendleton coats, large and small-scale paintings, to buffalo-hide art, and animal sculptures.

The world premiere of Native Voices at the Autry’s play, “Carbon Black” by Terry Gomez, Comanche, was attended by more than 100. The Autry’s Wells Fargo Theater witnessed powerful performances by veteran actor Sheila Tousey, Menominee, Stockbridge Munsee; rising-star Tonantzin Carmelo, Tongva, Kumeyaay; the young up-and-coming star Michael Drummond, and actor Stephan Wolfert. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary season, Native Voices continues to expand and raise the bar with its selected plays through year-round workshops, retreats, outreach, play-readings and productions.

“The Art of Native American Basketry: A Living Tradition” continues through May 30, 2010, and Native Voices at the Autry’s play “Carbon Black” ends Nov. 22.