Annual Living Earth Festival Highlights Native Performances, Food and Culture

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Three-Day Festival Includes a Native Chef Cook-off, Concert and Outdoor Market

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian brings the best of traditional knowledge and traditions to visitors during its fifth annual Living Earth Festival Friday, July 18, through Sunday, July 20. This year’s festival includes a Native cooking competition and music and dance performances. An outdoor market with produce from local farms and hands-on activities and games for families are also part of the celebration. The full schedule is available here.

Outdoor Market

On Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the museum’s Welcome Plaza, visitors will learn about the importance of crop pollinators from the University of Maryland Pollina Terps and observe Belizean slate carvers Maria and Paulita Garcia as they create a Mayan stela, or a carved stone slab used for commemoration. Volunteers from the University of New Mexico Alumni Association will also roast and sell green chile on site.  

Music and Dance Performances

Traditional and contemporary songs and dances will be presented by the Southern Ute Bear Dancers and the Pokagon Drum and Dance Troupe, who will have daily performances in the Potomac Atrium.


An exclusive concert Saturday, July 19, at 5:15 p.m. in the Potomac Atrium with First Nations singer Missy Knott will be followed by Twice as Good, an award-winning rhythm-and-blues band featuring the father-and-son duo Rich and Paul Steward from the Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians in California.

Family-Friendly Activities

On Friday at 10 a.m., Smithsonian Gardens and museum staff will invite visitors to help release thousands of ladybugs into the museum landscape and learn how these natural pest controllers benefit plants and gardens. The museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center will host Native Hawaiians Missy Scalph and Lisa Austin as they demonstrate lei-making. Visitors, ages 5 and up, will learn how to make their own ti leaf or kukui nut lei from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. daily. Visitors can join Craig Falcon (Blackfeet/White Clay), executive director for the International Traditional Games Society, as he demonstrates several games in Rooms 4018/4019 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. daily.


On Friday at 1:30 p.m., the symposium “Energy for Change: Green Leaders Building a Sustainable Future” will be presented in the Rasmuson Theater; it will focus on environmental and economic success in creating sustainable societies. Visitors will be introduced to new projects that are building a clean economy and encouraging local job creation, energy savings and greater self-sufficiency. Presenters include Chief Ava Hill (Six Nations of the Grand River), Rebecca Moore from Google Earth Outreach and Chairwoman Aletha Tom (Moapa Band of Paiutes).

Dinner & A Movie

Visitors will be able to enjoy an a la carte menu at the museum’s Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe on Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a screening of Na Kupu Mana‘olana: Seeds of Hope at 7 p.m. in the Rasmuson Theater. The 2011 documentary directed by Danny Miller illustrates problems in Hawai’i due to land use, importing foods and GMO test sites. It also explores the food and agriculture industry in the archipelago.

Demonstration and Information Booths

Artists will have tables in the Potomac Atrium, including beadwork artists David Martin (Potawatomi), Elise Reed and Joyce Dutchie (Southern Ute), carver Gerry Quotskuyva (Hopi), basket makers Jennie and Jamie Brown (Potawatomi) and Sue Coleman (Washo), sculptor Kathy Whitman Elk-Woman (Three Affiliated Tribes), potter Jason Wesaw (Potawatomi) and embroiders Timotea Mesh and Victoria Canto (Mayan). Information booths include the InterTribal Buffalo Council, National Council on Urban Indian Health, Red Lake Nation Foods, Native Natural, Nativologie and First Stewards.

Native Cooking

On Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the museum’s Welcome Plaza, Oneida chef Arlie Doxtator will compete in an Iron Chef-style competition against Oaxacan chef Neftali Duran in preparing two appetizers, entrees and desserts that incorporate cranberries, a fruit indigenous to North America. Mitsitam Cafe executive chef Richard Hetzler will emcee the event, and three local chefs will serve as judges.

Throughout the festival, sisters Lois Whitney and Leah Brady (Western Shoshone) will demonstrate how to prepare bison stew and chili.

For more details about the festival, visit Join the conversation on Twitter @SmithsonianNMAI and use the hashtag #LivingEarth.

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