Redmond’s Paul Wagner presents Native American music and stories at Talking Trees Conference

Redmond resident Paul Wagner, whose Native American name is Che oke' ten, will be among featured performers at the Talking Trees Conference, a fundraiser for guardians of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Redmond resident Paul Wagner

Redmond resident Paul Wagner, whose Native American name is Che oke’ ten, will be among featured performers at the Talking Trees Conference, a fundraiser for guardians of the Amazon Rain Forest.

The event on Saturday, June 19 begins with a silent auction at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 7:30 p.m. concert at St. Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 Tenth Ave. in Seattle. General admission is $15.

Wagner is a musician and storyteller who has presented the culture of his Saanich tribe ancestors to audiences from the Redmond Historical Society and area schools and libraries.

On a very local level, he likes to tell stories about his great-grandma traveling up and down the Sammamish Slough to get around the greater Seattle area, back when roads were few.

In those rustic times, life was challenging but natural resources were plentiful, Wagner pointed out.

The Talking Trees event “is for people interested in healthy lungs for Mother Earth. Without those, we have a very threatened lifestyle. … It’s also for people who love music. There are some very talented artists, such as Lili Haydin,” he said.

Along with dwindling trees and wildlife, the language and traditions of his people have also fallen into danger of disappearing forever.

He said that in his mother’s generation, many of his family members were physically and emotionally abused by others who wanted them to forget their roots.

“It was cultural genocide,” said Wagner. “They learned, ‘That’s what going to happen if you speak the language.'”

Elders who wanted to preserve their native culture had to be very careful, he said.

“They would go to the most remote places and gather in secret.”

There were camps called ‘memorizer villages,’ where oral histories were shared, as well as camps where basket weavers or carvers would teach their skills to others, said Wagner.

“Some have made recordings,” he noted. “It’s important because so many people have left or died.”

When he goes to schools to share Native American stories, especially those about respect for nature, it can often be tied in to students’ learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Wagner noted how the famous explorers’ writings described the wonderful abundance of salmon.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure we have lots of salmon, trying to clean up all the mercury and PCP and create natural energy. Someday maybe we can bring back that abundance,” he said.

Yet when sharing his ancestors’ stories, “We never tell people what to learn. We encourage them to find their own meaning. I’ve learned to respect that I am no less or no greater than the things around me,” said Wagner. “I encourage young people to get in touch with their own wisdom, the wisdom that comes from their heart.”

To learn more about Paul Wagner or Che oke’ ten, visit

For more information about the Talking Trees Conference, visit

More in Life

A day of service at Redmond’s Idylwood Park

About a dozen volunteers showed up at the park to help remove non-native plants growing in the woods.

From left: students Riley Retinger, Abby Smith, Mimmi Hubbard and Sadie Rabinowitz. Photo by Calah Webb
‘It’s one of my favorite places to be’: School of Rock Issaquah gears up for January shows

In January, students will be paying homage to the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Chris Cornell and others.

Steve Poulter retires from UPS after 127,499 accident-free miles. Photo courtesy of Steve Poulter
Redmond UPS driver retires after 30 years with no accidents

Steve Poulter retires after 127,499 accident-free miles.

Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo 
                                Panko enjoying Redmond’s annual Winter Festival on Dec. 7.
A weekend of Redmond Lights

Redmond celebrated its annual winter festival.

Dora Gyarmati. Photo by Nityia Photography
Three simple rules for the holiday

A monthly column about mindfulness.

Redmond Lights will take place Dec. 7 and 8. Photo courtesy of city of Redmond Facebook
Redmond Lights will have new additions this year

The parks and recreation department shared a preview of the festival with city council.

NAMI volunteer Jesse Levine, director Michele Meaker, and volunteer Cole Swanson after their End the Silence presentation. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
NAMI Eastside: Ending the stigma of mental health

NAMI Eastside offers advocacy, education, and support to those affected by mental illness.

Photo courtesy of Help Hungry Kids! GoFundMe campaign 
                                Barrett Rugge created a GoFundMe campaign after he realized that students at Clara Barton Elementary often didn’t have access to snacks throughout the day.
Redmond student raises funds for hungry kids

Barrett Rugge started a GoFundMe to help Clara Barton students have snacks throughout the day.

Photo courtesy of Neelam Chahlia 
                                The Redmond City Council recognized Neelam Chahlia’s participation in the Mrs. America contest as Mrs. Washington at its Nov. 19 meeting.
Redmond council recognizes Chalia’s participation in the Mrs. America contest

The Mrs. Washington winner was recognized at the Nov. 19 city council meeting.

Photo courtesy of The Bear Creek School 
                                Bear Creek National Honor Society students from left, Kate McDonough, Chuck McDonough, James Wadhwani, Tyler Doyle, Benjamin Ferreira, Kathryn Sutherland, Ryan Bracewell, Nelson Sun and Annemarie Mullet delivered food donations to the Hopelink food bank in Redmond.
Bear Creek food drive brings in six and a half tons of food

The school’s National Honor Society chapter organized the drive and the food was donate to Hopelink.

For veterans, there’s no better cause to push than helping other vets

Jim Curtis and Mark Gorman are two of many veteran advocates on the Eastside.