August 2020 has brought us the book that was never supposed to happen, Midnight Sun, and a renewed conversation about how a billion dollar franchise misappropriated the culture of a entire group of people without batting an eye. So today, I have a bit of a story and a challenge for you.
If you want to skip the story and go straight to the challenge click here and insert round of applause.
It was 2009…
If you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Washington. You know the one… rain, trees and apparently vampires that sparkle. In 2009 I was a newly married college student who got talked into a “beach trip” on a whim by a spouse in my husband’s military unit. We (literally) loaded up MREs and hit the road. I probably should have asked more questions of the non-local person heading the “wrong way” to the beach but instead, we made the three hour drive north to Forks.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I wasn’t a TwiHard like my friend and honestly school had kept me so busy I had very little awareness of ‘Twilight-Mania’. So I was absolutely flabbergasted to drive up to the Olympic Peninsula, a place where I spent a lot of time exploring growing up, into this tiny town and see the… madness. There were maps at the Forks Chamber of Commerce for a tour with actual people’s homes marked as “The Cullens” and “The Swan House”, Twilight themed motel rooms (I am not even kidding), gas stations selling Twilight merchandise, and so much traffic. And lets not forget the life size cut outs of the characters EVERYWHERE you turned. I was overwhelmed and it wasn’t my home. I cannot even begin to imagine what the local communities felt. It is one thing to be aware a pop-culture phenomenon is taking over the world, but it is a wholly other thing to see it take over your small town.
It’s estimated 70,000 Tri-Hards swept through Forks that year. The city undoubtedly benefited from this massive increase in tourism and still has Twilight themed events for fans, but what was the cost?
What is Twilight Without the Quileute Tribe?
20 minutes away from Forks is La Push: home of Jacob, his fellow wolves and the real Quileute people who have called the land home for thousands of years.
While the Quileute Nation also saw the Twilight tourism, the franchise (IE Stephanie Meyer, Summit Entertainment, and etc.) made BILLIONS selling the drama of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. Hot Vampires vs. Hot Werewolves. And off the misappropriated views of the Quileute Tribe. Stephanie Meyer changed the history of an ACTUAL living group of people without consultation or permission. She turned their tribe into a pack of mythical animals. Later, merchandise was sold inspired by the Quileute culture, again without consent. And you know who was not compensated during the height of Twilight mania? The Quileute Tribe. To date, I have been unable to find anything concrete that suggests they have ever been compensated. It has been over 10 years… and Stephanie Meyer is about to profit AGAIN.
If you want to learn more about some of the issues with Twilight, particularly as it relates to the Quileute Nation, check out this site from the Burke Museum in collaboration with the Quileute Tribe called Truth versus Twilight. Also learn more about the Quileute Tribe from their own site here including etiquette if you choose to visit once the reservation opens to the public again.
Despite people all over the world traveling to the PNW to experience a piece of Twilight and recognizing the name of the Quileute Tribe, the Quileute tribal school (and community) is one natural disaster away from being lost forever. This isn’t just a building. The is a place that strives to preserve the language and culture of the Quileute Tribe but also teaches indigenous students from tribes and nations across our state.
This is where the Move to Higher Ground project and the challenge comes in. The Quileute Tribe is raising funds to move their tribal school and other vital community buildings to lands that are safe from natural disasters such as tsunamis and floods. These are very real threats to our coastal communities. The ultimate goal is to move the entire village to safety.
If you purchase Midnight Sun or borrow it from the library (who had to purchase it), I challenge you to make at least a matching donation to Move to Higher Ground. If you bought from Amazon, I challenge you to add $5 more to that donation. Per their site, the Twilight Franchise has NOT helped this project to date despite the astronomical profit that was made off the Quileute culture. Need I remind you, they are one natural disaster away from losing life, heritage, and culture?
It is well past time to step-up for and pay-up to the Quileute Tribe. Let’s love the actual people even more than the fictional werewolves they “inspired.”
Note: I originally learned about this project from a friend last year but was reminded of it today by a fantastic bookstagram account bringing awareness and change to the book community, check them out: BookstagramRepresent