When Oliver Tuthill Jr. asked her to be the Native American coordinator on his independent film "Willatuk: The Legend of Seattle's Sea Serpent," the Sequim resident not only signed on, she played a part in the film when they needed an actress.
"The director - Oliver - wanted me for a couple of parts," Silvas explained. "I met him through my best friend Lester Greene, who was chief of Wyahttch Village of the Makah Nation. Lester told me about the film and we went to the location and Oliver asked if I'd be in it. The experience was fun, but you do sit and wait on the set. We quit filming at least a year ago and now I'm their public relations liaison."
Working on the hour-long pseudo-documentary was a new experience for Silvas, but she's a woman who doesn't shy away from challenges. Her first scene was filmed at the Makah Cultural and Research Center at Neah Bay dancing with several members of the Makah Tribe.
"Willatuk is the protector of the waters - the oceans, rivers, lakes - from pollution. The serpent guides the fishermen and heals the sick. I had the part of an elder who is taken to the water's edge and laid on a blanket for Willatuk to come out of the water and heal."
The legend of Willatuk is a story that was created as an example. The tribe in the movie is the Willatonka tribe, which exists only in the "documentary." It is fiction; however, it represents the beliefs of the native people. They believe in the land and the Mother Earth as life's source. They believe in a spirit and, in this film, Willatuk represents that belief.
The low-budget, 63-minute film debuted in Seattle on June 12 and will be available on DVD through www.passionriver.com and www.rivercoastfilm.com. It is narrated by Academy Award nominee Graham Greene.
An adventurer from the start
Promoting "Willatuk" is Silvas' newest venture. Over the years her life's path has taken many different roads. Growing up near San Diego, Calif., as a member of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen, she moved to the Northwest 22 years ago. For years she has conducted drum workshops where attendees make traditional drums.
"I made my first drum in San Diego about 35 years ago. In the workshops we talk about the hide - the animal, the heartbeat. Everyone knows how to play the drum because it's the first sound we hear, a mother's heartbeat. I'm soaking hides right now because I have a drum workshop coming up."
Even before she made her first drum, Silvas explored another talent. As a young girl, long before it was either fashionable or accepted, she enjoyed playing pool.
"You know how you taste a certain ice cream and you just love it? I couldn't get enough of pool. I played hooky from school and met my boyfriend in downtown San Diego at an arcade. I picked up a cue and started playing pool. That was back when women didn't play. The tables were in bars and I wasn't even old enough, so I found a billiard hall and started running the table.
"Pool lasted longer than the boyfriend. I paid my dues and worked my way from bar tournaments to state and national tournaments and leagues and finally won my way into a spot on the Women's Pro Tour. I did it for about four years and won enough money to pay for my entry fees and my travel and I had fun. I met people from all over and we're still in touch."
'Mama Bear' message rings true
Life changed when Silvas hung up her pool cue and wrote "Mama Bear Baby Bear," a self-published book in its third printing. An allegory about drug abuse, the book weaves a tale of a grandmother and her grandson.
Silvas said, "She teaches him how to count the stars and look another animal in the eye when he speaks, and, of course, not to eat the forbidden fruit."
For more than five years, Silvas has been delivering keynote speeches at corporate functions and conferences. Her use of drums and song and the message of "Mama Bear Baby Bear" often strike an emotional nerve with her business audiences.
"A lot of the time people cry. I remember in Denver, I was playing the drums and I was closing with my own song. I remember looking up and almost everyone in the audience had their eyes closed and was feeling the beat of the drum. Everyone has walked a similar path and it's a part of our lives. Because of interest in my book, I've marketed myself as an international speaker and I've been
to Japan, Mexico, Canada. There are even plans to include the book in the prison system in California."
Silvas continues to make drums and now also is weaving hats from pine needles.
"I wanted to work with cedar but I kept going back to pine needles because that's the California native way," she said. "I get the needles from Florida because they're up to 17 inches long. I make my own design and my work is in several galleries."
Of all the different paths she has taken in her life, Silvas remains true to being an artist, creating new work and daring to explore life's unknowns.
Rebecca Redshaw is an award-winning author and playwright. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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