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In Brief

Beyond “Twilight”: Telling Real Story of Quileute Wolves

15 March 2012

Grey wolf with yellow eyes, looking over its shoulder (Massimo Valiani)

Ever since the Twilight saga became popular in books and movies, many Twilight fans have assumed that a Native American tribe known as Quileutes are associated not only with wolves but with werewolves. A new museum exhibition, organized with the tribe's help, sets the record straight.

Ever since the Twilight series of books and movies became a worldwide phenomenon, the word “Quileute” has stirred up images of an enigmatic Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest whose members can shape-shift into werewolves.

But the role of wolves in Quileute culture is nothing like its portrayal in fiction or in Hollywood, say Quileute tribal members. Working with a curator at the Seattle Art Museum, tribal members helped organize the exhibition Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves, which explains the wolf’s link to the Quileutes.

Oral traditions state that the powerful Transformer Kwati changed a pair of wolves into the first Quileute people. Ceremonial dancers still wear elaborate wolf masks in Quileute rituals to honor the legend of the tribe’s debt to the wolf.

Behind the Scenes is on view at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian through May 9, 2012.

See also: "Quileute Culture: A Focus on Wolves and the Natural World."