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Edward Willie (San Anselmo) collaborating with the Museum of the American Indian (Novato)

Award: $40,000 Traditional Arts Grant awarded in 2011

Completed: February 2014

Native California artist Edward Willie collaborated with the Museum of the American Indian to create men’s regalia—distinct, meticulously crafted, nature-based adornments for traditional dancers. Willie, who is of Pomo, Walkiki, and Wintu descent, specializes in the regalia of the Pomo tribes—the original inhabitants of Sonoma County. He learned the finer points of regalia making from expert California makers and uses traditional materials and methods. He also conducted extensive research in museums, books, and online materials during the course of his project.

While creating the regalia, he presented 12 hands-on workshops for dancers who wanted to learn the traditional techniques. His process was documented through photographs and exhibit cases for archives and display.

Willie and the museum presented a mini exhibit based on the “Kay Key Ya Project” at the 2013 American Indian Art Show in San Rafael and a similar preview exhibit in 2014. These presentations built interest in the culminating presentation of  four museum display cases showing jewelry, head gear, dogbane construction and use, and feather skirt creation. The finished project went on long-term display at the Museum of the American Indian in Novato on August 15, 2014.  The museum is allowing traditional dancers to check out the regalia for use in gatherings and ceremonies.

The Museum of the American Indian has been located on a Coast Miwok village site in Novato, California for more than four decades. It seeks to provide the people of Northern California with programs and exhibits that deepen understanding and appreciation of Native American cultures.