13th Annual Gila River Festival schedule announced

Announcing the 13th Annual Gila River Festival

Gathering the Gila

September 21 - 24, 2017, Silver City, New Mexico

The 13th annual festival, Gathering the Gila will engage participants in an exploration of the bountiful native foods, plants, and medicines found throughout the Gila River and its watershed. Presented by the Gila Conservation Coalition, the Festival will feature dynamic presentations and hands-on activities designed to foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River, including river outings, field trips, workshops, storytelling, cooking, and foraging. 

The Gila River Festival and Gila Conservation Coalition are proud to announce that activist and conservationist Winona LaDuke will give the festival keynote address on Friday, September 22. Ms. LaDuke is renowned for her passion about traditional native foods and has worked tirelessly to maintain the integrity of traditional native foods. She will discuss innovative strategies for stewardship of our water, land, and traditional native plant foods.

LaDuke’s keynote presentation will address native food plants that are an integral part of the Anishinaabe people’s culture and health, the harvesting and preparation of these traditional foods, and the significance of traditional foods in Native American cultures. She will discuss the work to protect traditional foods from genetic contamination and extinction, to restore ancient varieties, and the vital importance of these well-adapted plants in the face of climate change. No tickets are necessary for this event. Suggested donation is $15 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Gila Conservation Coalition’s work to protect the Gila River. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

On Thursday evening September 21, “aural” historian Jack Loeffler, author of Thinking Like a Watershed, and Adventures with Ed, will return to the festival with the presentation “Seeds of Consciousness,” featuring audio vignettes on gathering seeds, insights from indigenous peoples, and bioregional and watershed ideas from some of the Southwest’s most dynamic thought leaders.

In partnership with The Volunteer Center, workshops on acorn processing and mesquite milling will be lead by bioregional herbalist John Slattery and the volunteer group the “Mesquitos.” Returning favorite Alex Mares will again lead a rock art field trip. Photographer Diana Molina will explore the Gila region’s native plants through her art.  There will be opportunities for kayaking the Gila River, fly fishing, birding, edible native plant gathering, and much more.  

Las Cruces-based performance writer, novelist, and playwright Denise Chávez will lead a storytelling event focused on food stories. Chávez is author of A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture and former Executive Director of the Border Book Festival.

As part of the fundraising Native Food Brunch on Sunday September 24, Santa Clara Pueblo artist Roxanne Swentzell, author of the Pueblo Food Experience, presents a talk on her experiential work to improve the health of her people through the restoration of Native culinary customs.

Miguel Santistevan, a dynamic teacher and experimental farmer, will discuss the acequia-based agricultural traditions of northern New Mexico that preserved locally-adapted seeds and created traditions around growing, preparing, and sharing food. He will also lead a workshop on seed saving.

Musician, poet, and spoken word performer Lyla June Johnston will give a presentation entitled “Tending the Wild” and will speak to the importance of preserving indigenous plants, seeds, foods, and traditional ways of tending nature’s bounty. She will also play her original music and perform her spoken word compositions at the Gila River Extravaganza in downtown Silver City. 

Saturday’s downtown Gila River Extravaganza takes place in Big Ditch Park and will feature live music, spoken word poetry, tastings of native food products, kid’s activities and the beloved Monsoon Puppet Parade. The Fort Sill Apache Fire Dancers with the Gooday Family from Oklahoma will return for an encore performance.

Many thanks to our major sponsors: New Mexico Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, McCune Charitable Foundation, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, ALAYA, Stream Dynamics, Gila/Mimbres Community Radio, Western New Mexico University, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Glasserie, Town and Country Garden Club, the Town of Silver City Lodgers Tax, and our lodging sponsor, the Murray Hotel. For more details and registration, visit our website at: www.gilariverfestival.org or call us at 575-538-8078.

On-line registration for field trips and workshops now open.

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GilaRiverFestival/, and follow us on instagram and twitter: @gilariverfest

Images available via Dropbox.




Allyson Siwik