Folklife Streaming Audio

Borderlands Cultural Focus

The 2007 Cultural Focus is Borderlands, a presentation of the extraordinary arts, artists, customs and traditions in border communities of the Pacific Northwest. Meet artists, musicians, dancers, craftspeople, smokejumpers, packers, border guards, water-witchers and yodelers from both sides of the US-Canadian border at the 2007 Folklife Festival.


Danny Smith learned to yodel when he was 17 years old by slowing down an old 45 to 33 rpm. Born and raised on the Pend-d'Oreille River in Northeastern Washington, Danny says "out of pure stubbornness, I managed to scratch out a living and raise my kids here." His songs tell about fishing in the river, working at Seattle City Light's Boundary Dam facility, and life in this unique corner of the Pacific Northwest. Danny sings two of his songs about the Pend-d'Oreille River and the railroad that follows the course of the river through Washington State and into Canada.


Paul Gitlitz is a contradance fiddler and composer hailing from Point Roberts, Washington. Many of his fiddle tunes are inspired by the natural environment of Point Roberts, a small community located on the tip of the Tsawassen Peninsula and surrounded on three sides by water. Point Roberts, while in Washington, can only be reached by crossing water or passing through Canada. Paul talks about and plays two of his tunes based on the environment of Point Roberts, WA


The Russian-speaking Doukhobor communities of southern British Columbia are sustained by a strong tradition of family, spirituality, and self-sufficiency. The Doukhobors are committed to a philosophy of pacifism and equality, and have sacrificed much in order to realize these ideals in the face of persecution. Choral singing continues to occupy a central place in many Doukhobor lives, as a powerful form of Russian poetry, spiritual worship, and social comraderie. Doukhobor singers talk about the connection between Doukhobor heritage, pacifism and song.


The small town of Lynden, WA is home to an active Sikh community, members of a religion that had its beginnings in 15th century Punjab, India. Singing groups called Kirtani Jatha are essential components of this community, providing the hymns at religious services and private homes. The hymns are accompanied by tabla (a pair of small drums) and a harmonium, a small pump organ.

Dr. Ajit Rupaal Singh discusses Sikh philosophy and music, accompanied by the Kirtani Jatha of Lynden, WA.


The Columbia River drains much of the Pacific Northwest, and over time has collected many songs depicting its centrality to environmental, economic, and social issues facing our region. Hydropower projects on the Columbia have reshaped the environment and impacted Northwest communities in a variety of ways over the last 80 years. The promise and reality of dam-building is often captured in song: most famously, folksinger Woody Guthrie celebrated the mighty river, the people who depended on it, and its potential for transforming the region. Other songs challenge this transformation by articulating what hydropower has meant for Native communities and others who depended on a free-flowing Columbia.

Carl Allen and Bill Murlin present Woody's perspective on the Grand Coulee Dam.

Colville tribal member Jim Boyd sings about the effect of the Grand Coulee Dam on his community.

Canadians Rika Ruebsaat and Jon Bartlett talk and sing about the effects of the High Arrow Dam in Southern B.C.

Washington State's Methow Valley, nestled in the rugged North Cascades, is the birthplace of smokejumping. Since 1939, an elite force of smokejumpers have parachuted into remote roadless areas as the first defense against lightning strike fires. Considered a national resource, this demanding job is part of the heritage of the Pacific Northwest. Ryan Taie gives an oral history of his job as a North Cascade smokejumper and what it takes to parachute into forest fires.
Logging and trapping are two jobs that for generations defined the border between Canada and the U.S. Mixing back-breaking labor and danger with stunning wilderness, these jobs inspired songs that articulated the connection hardy laborors developed with the environments in which they worked.

Rika Ruebsaat sings two songs about logging and trapping in the Duncan River Valley in southern British Columbia:

The Greenhorn Logger
Homesick Trapper


John Doran is a horse rancher, backcountry packer, poet and bagpipe player who makes his home in the high country of Twisp, WA. His stories and poems serve as funny and poignant windows into life in the North Cascades. A talent for observation is what John says makes a good cowboy. It's also what makes a good poet. John is both. John tells how he once used a Colt 45 to stop a horse he was riding!
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