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  • Day Six: Top Ten Photos

    The sound of conch horns and chants filled the National Museum of the American Indian as we began the last day of this year’s Festival. In the Potomac Atrium, Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a and Hālau o Kekuhi prepared for the return of Kānepō, a volcanic pōhaku (rock) on loan to the museum from Volcanoes National Park for the past 20 years. Since 2004, Kānepō has represented the Hawaiian people and the westernmost reaches of the hemisphere at the museum as one of its cardinal direction stones. Through ritual dance and song, including a spontaneous appearance by Tlingit storyteller Gene Tagaban as Raven, we wished Kānepō a safe journey home to Hawai’i later this summer.

    “Why have we made such a big fuss over a rock?” asked Kumu Hula Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, leader of Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a. “Because we want to make a fuss over all the rocks. Because they are the people under the soles of our feet.”

    This year’s Festival ended rather symbolically—with a display of unity, uplifting the voices of Indigenous peoples for all to hear—with our final featured concert. Celebrating Canada Day, Mi’kmaw band Sons of Membertou, from the east coast of Nova Scotia, performed in the Potomac Atrium.

    “This would be the first time, to my knowledge, that we have Mi’kmaw music being sung on the National Mall or at the National Museum of the American Indian,” founder Graham Marshall said.

    The event welcomed Kirsten Hillman, ambassador of Canada to the United States, and marked the start of a collaboration of Sons of Membertou with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which will soon reissue the band’s 1995 album, Wapna’kik: The People of the Dawn.

    ← Day Five

    Seen from above, members of Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a and Hālau o Kekuhi stand in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Potomac Atrium. They are wearing ʻaʻahu (attire) of assorted styles and colors representative of their respective hālau. A man in Tlingit Raven regalia including large wings, is seen in the middle. Members of the public sit in chairs along the perimeter of the Potomac Atrium.
    In a powerful ʻaha kīhoʻihoʻi (return ceremony) for Kānepō, Hawaiian dancers from Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a and Hālau o Kekuhi joined together, with a guest appearance by Tlingit storyteller Gene Tagaban as the Raven.
    Photo by Stanley Turk, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A man in a black shirt mid-jump, several feet off the ground. One foot is extended to kick a ball suspended from the ceiling by a string.
    Peter Griggs (Yup’ik/Sugpiaq), a member of the Nuna Dancers, participated in the Arctic games demonstration at the Sports and Games pavilion. Here, he is completing the One-Foot High Kick, one of many Arctic sports Griggs competes in back home in Alaska.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Two men pick up a large six-pointed kite made of tissue paper and decorated with paint and collage. Words on it read Indigenous Voices, Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
    Artist Ubaldo Sánchez (right) completed his barrilete gigante (giant kite), featuring the Smithsonian sunburst and the National Museum of the American Indian in the center, Maya imagery and patterns, and sunburst cutouts from the Festival brochure. Ultimately, they decided the kite was too fragile to fly.
    Photo by Stephen L. Kolb, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    The backs of two children sitting cross-legged on the grass in front of a stage where a cooking demonstration takes place.
    Two chefs-to-be watched Robert Kinneen’s Foodways demonstration, where he made a bison flank steak with tepary bean salad.
    Photo by Grace Bowie, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    A woman with a long ponytail wearing a black tank top and white sunglasses paints the details of a mural with a woman’s back, a rainbow, and buffalo on it.
    Muralist Reyna Hernandez places finishing touches on her mural behind the Family Activities tent. For the first three days of the Festival, guests were allowed to lay the foundation for the mural, named Buffalo Dreamer.
    Photo by Grace Bowie, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Outdoors among tents, folding chairs, and a crowd, four people cheer and hold up papers that says I (heart) Nuna.
    Nuna’s fan club went all out for their final Arctic dance performance on the Four Directions Stage.
    Photo by Phillip R. Lee, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    The volcanic pōhaku (rock) Kānepō is adorned with lei, leaves, ropes, shells, and white flowers.
    Kānepō has served as the western cardinal direction stones at the museum since its opening twenty years ago. Now, as he prepares to return to Hawai‘i per his original agreement, Hawaiian participants and visitors have adorned him with hoʻokupu (offerings) of lei, leaves, ropes, shells, and white flowers.
    Photo by Josh Weilepp, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Three women in dresses sit on an outdoor stage with an orange backdrop. Two of them pose for a selfie on a smartphone, smiling.
    Skaters Di’orr Greenwood and Huara Medina Montaño took a selfie at the “Skating and Creativity” narrative session. Over the last six days, our skating participants became closer, fostering a cross-cultural community centered around their love of the Indigenous sport.
    Photo by Mark Roth, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    From above, around forty people join hands to form a circle around the edge of a circular performance space. On one side, four people at microphones in matching red and black outfits play hand drums. Around the circle of dancers is a seated crowd.
    For the final featured concert of the 2024 Festival, Mi’kmaw musicians Sons of Membertou invited the audience to join in a dance. The day ended as it began: a circle of community and artistry.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
    Staff of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival pose in front of a teal and yellow mural which reads “On the National Mall since 1967, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 26-July 1, 2024”.
    These are just a fraction of the people who make the Festival possible: employees, contractors, and interns at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. They all pose in front of a mural, illustrated by Elisa Hough and painted by Sarah Phillips, both members of Festival staff.
    Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

    Even though our Festival was shorter this year, we managed to fill six days with just as much fun from beautiful music to delicious food, awe-inspiring art pieces, and enough stories to last a lifetime. Now we all have the responsibility of sharing those experiences, because as Gene Tagaban says, “We are all storytellers.”

    We’ve loved bringing you the Top Ten this week, but we would be remiss if we did not give a shoutout to our amazing photographers, many of whom volunteer their time to the Festival documenting each special moment. Thank you to Grace Bowie, Julie Byrne, Kalia Chesley, James C. Dacey, Joshua Davis, Bill Douthitt, Craig Fergus, Ralph H. Johnson, Karen Kasmauski, Stephen L. Kolb, Phillip R. Lee, Daniel Martínez González, Carys Owen, Mark Roth, Stanley Turk, Ronald Villasante, Josh Weilepp, Mary Yee, Mark C. Young, and last, but certainly not least, lead photographer Sonya Pencheva.

    And thank you! We’re so happy to have been able to share the Festival with you, whether it be on the National Mall or online from anywhere in the world. While the Festival has ended, the transmission of cultural traditions lives on, and we hope you’ll check out the participants’ individual platforms, our recipes page, or our Festival Blog for extra videos, photos, articles, and more over the next few months.

    This is Team Top Ten signing off. See you in 2025!

    ← Day Five

    Molly Szymanski is a media intern with the 2024 Folklife Festival. They are from Baltimore and currently live in College Park, Maryland. Elisa Hough is the editor and web content manager for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

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