Delbert “Smutcoom” Miller

Grantee:  Delbert “Smutcoom” Miller
Native Citizenship:  Skokomish
Location:  Shelton, Wash.
Award:  2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Traditional Arts, Carving
Web Site:  None

Miller follows what was passed to him by his tribal elders. He teaches the Tuwaduq (Skokomish) words that correspond with the artwork that his students create as well as the traditional practices that go along with crafting the art. He wants those he teaches to also pass on this traditional knowledge and in doing so, this generation may become the advisors and leaders of the Skokomish and Chehalis people in the future.

Delbert Miller has learned and witnessed firsthand the powerful impact of teaching cultural heritage from ancestral knowledge to the next generation. As such, there has been a long history of intergenerational knowledge shared between his family, the Millers (Skokomish), and the family of another community, the Petes (Chehalis). This includes the teachings of two of their highly respected elders, respectively—National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Award winner Bruce Miller and master weaver Hazel Pete.

Perpetuating the two families’ cultural exchanges, Miller will mentor his apprentice, Ho-Wan-Ut “Haila” Old Peter (Skokomish), to carve and weave an ancestral figure representing Hazel Pete in a new ceremonial Doctor House. The Doctor House, where the mentor project will be erected, is located on reservation land next to residents of Hazel Pete’s descendants. The mentor project honors Hazel Pete and affirms the long-standing relationships and combined artistic talents between the Miller and Pete families.

The activities of the Doctor House will focus on spiritual healing, mentoring apprentices, and teaching traditional art forms. The teachings and activities can provide a healing environment for the community and the aftermath of historical trauma.

It is a very honorable thing to encourage young people who are willing to hear this old culture and find their place to stand with the Spirit, and one day do something to benefit a generation who will come to stand on their shoulders.
~ Delbert Miller

Mentor and Apprentice Joint Art Project: 

Delbert Miller focused great energy on passing on valuable cultural knowledge to Haila Old Peter, while guiding her through the carving and weaving of a house post representing and in honor of a well-respected elder of the community. In addition, he spent countless hours and months working towards completing the construction of the Doctor House. Although not complete in its construction, healing ceremonies have already been held in the Doctor House, and once complete, it will be filled with significant works of art, such as Old Peter’s house post.