Silver city, new mexico

September 21st - 24th, 2017

Gila River  2016.jpg

The 13th Annual 

Gila River Festival

The Gila Conservation Coalition hosts the 13th annual Gila River Festival “Gathering the Gila” September 21-24, 2017 in Silver City, NM, the Gila National Forest and along the Gila River.  

This year's festival will explore the Gila watershed’s bountiful native plants, used as foods and medicines, which have nurtured diverse cultures throughout the millennia – those that have vanished, and those that remain. Featuring hands-on activities designed to foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River, including river outings, field trips, workshops, storytelling, cooking, and foraging. 

Speakers include writer and activist Winona LaDuke, “aural” historian Jack Loeffler, botanist Richard Felger, author Denise Chavez, biologist and acequia parciante Miguel Santistevan, and Santa Clara Pueblo artist and author Roxanne Swentzell

FESTIVAL KEYNOTE - "Native Plants, Native Peoples" with Winona LaDuke. Friday, September 22, 7pm at the WNMU Fine Arts Center Theater. Admission $15 donation at the door. Students FREE.

The Gila River Extravaganza street fair takes place in Big Ditch Park in downtown Silver City on Saturday, and will feature live music, spoken word poetry, tastings of native food products, kids' activities and the beloved Monsoon Puppet Parade. The Fort Sill Apache Fire Dancers with the Gooday Family will return for an encore performance. 

Download the Gila River Festival brochure.


Hopi filmmaker Victor Masayesva will present and discuss his latest film Sanctuary on Friday, September 22 from 10:30 am - noon at the WNMU Global Resource Center Auditorium.

Photo: Maddy Alfero

Photo: Maddy Alfero

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Schedule of Events

& Field Trips

The Gila River Festival features workshops and expert-led field trips to the Gila River and Gila National Forest, focusing on local cultural and natural history, such as archaeology, rock art, birding, identification and harvest of native plants for food and medicine, and more. On-line registration opens July 1, 2017.


FIELD TRIP: The Gila flyway WITH brian dolton


field trip: using weeds as a resource with monica rude




Field trip: A Place of Gathering with alex mares


field trip: mimbres cultural heritage site


Field Trip: Kayaking with far flung adventures

Workshop: acorn processing w/ john slattery


Field trip: birding at bridge with Mike Fugagli


Field Trip:downtown Birds K.Beckenbach & P. Taber


Field Trip: wild foods & medicines w/ Doug simons

Field trip: food plants with richard felger


Workshop: Mesquite 101 w/ mesquitos


field trip: One that got away/fly fishing 


Workshop: Empty bowls project with zoe wolfe

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field trip: Gathering the Gila with archaeology southwest


Field trip: Mesquite REcon mission with the mesquitos




We're honored to host some amazing speakers for this year's festival. See the full list here.


Winona laduke

Native American activist and author Winona LaDuke is renowned for her passion about traditional native foods. She has worked tirelessly to maintain the integrity of native foods, and speaks eloquently about the time-honored ritual of harvesting wild rice from the White Earth Reservation’s lakes.


Roxanne swentzell

Sculptor and farmer Roxanne Swentzell will give a presentation about the history of Santa Clara Pueblo’s traditional foods and her ambitious experiment, the “Pueblo Food Experience,” where she and other Native Americans ate exclusively pre-colonial Puebloan foods for three months, resulting in dramatic improvements in their health.

jack loeffler

Jack Loeffler is a bioregional aural historian, sound collage artist, writer, and musician concerned with the restoration and preservation of habitat focusing on the relationships of indigenous cultures to respective habitats, and the role of cultural diversity in solving the dilemmas now facing humankind.


diana molina

Artist and photographer Diana Molina will present a program of her dramatic photos of the Gila River’s native plants, and talk about how these plants were traditionally used for foods, medicines, dyes, building materials, and more.Molina’s sumptuous images depict the relationships of people, land, rivers, and culture rooted in New Mexico’s unique environment.

lyla june johnston

Lyla June Johnston is a multi-talented Diné anthropologist, musician, teacher, and poet. Lyla June Johnston will present the story of Native Americans’ tending of native trees and their historic uses. Lyla June will also perform her original songs and spoken word compositions.                                  


Richard felger

Richard Felger has conducted research in deserts worldwide and has published extensively on botany, ethnobiology, and new food crops. Based on his search of the world for new aridland food crops, he is focusing collaborative new-crops work on New Mexico and Southwest food plants.


miguel santistevan

Agricultural ecologist Miguel Santistevan is a northern New Mexico teacher, experimental farmer, and acequia parciante. He will discuss the agricultural traditions of northern New Mexico and the current movement to revive traditions of saving and planting seeds adapted to local conditions.



Denise Chávez is a performance writer, novelist, playwright, teacher and cultural activist based in Las Cruces, NM. A true child of La Frontera, Chávez’s books include The King and Queen of Comezón and A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture. Currently, Chávez is the Director of Casa Camino Real, a bookstore and multicultural art gallery, on the historic Camino Real near the original Las Cruces town site.




Silver City, NM


The Gila River Festival is based in Silver City, New Mexico, the gateway to the Gila Wilderness -- America's first wilderness area. A variety of expert-guided field trips will be offered to bring you unforgettable experiences of the 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest and the Gila River, New Mexico's last wild river. Silver City has a vibrant historic downtown and thriving art community. 

A wide variety of lodging options is available. 


THANK YOU! to our sponsors whose financial contributions make the Gila River Festival possible!


Photographs: Stephen Dorn, Jay Hemphill, Maddy Alfero, Allyson Siwik, Diana Molina,

Mark Watson, Zoe Wolfe, Mike Fugagli.

Wild rivers are earth’s renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away, and eventually always winning.
— Richard Bangs & Christian Kallen