Human Journey

Real-Life “Twilight” Tribe Has Wolf Connection, Mixed Feelings About Movie

In Breaking Dawn—Part 2, the big-screen finale for the “Twilight” series, fans must bid goodbye to a cast of characters that includes an Indian tribe full of werewolves. Even devotees of the saga might not be aware that the Quileute tribe actually exists.

The real-life Quileute Nation faces more risk from flooding and tsunamis than from vampires—rising sea levels threaten the single square mile that comprises the tribe’s reservation, located alongside the Pacific Ocean in La Push, Washington. Barbara Brotherton, curator of Native American art at the Seattle Art Museum, joined the Quileute community on Oct. 25 in celebrating new legislation, introduced nearly two years ago and signed Feb. 27, to return 785 acres of higher, safer land to the Quileute from nearby Olympic National Park.

Brotherton, who is not Quileute, brought an exhibit on the tribe to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., earlier this year: “Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves.” Pop Omnivore spoke with her and learned a few things about the tribe.

The tribe really does have a wolf connection.

“Wolves are central to their identity,” says Brotherton. The Quileute origin story tells of a “changer” called Kwati who turned a pair of wolves into humans on First Beach—the same beach where, in the “Twilight” story, the Quileute make a pact with the Cullen clan of vampires.

Quileute warriors traditionally belonged to a secret society called the Wolf Society. “They wore elaborate headdresses and had days-long initiations, and their most important cultural ceremonies have to do with being given power by wolves,” says Brotherton. Though other Quileute secret societies used to exist, the Wolf Society is the only one that has endured. New initiates—generally high-school-age, like “Twilight” ’s Jacob Black—learn the rhythmic wolf dance and eventually wear the society’s headdress, shaped like a wolf’s head.

The Quileute do believe in supernatural creatures—just not vampires.

“There are lots of legends about the creation of the landscape and the other supernatural creatures who inhabit it,” says Brotherton. Thunderbird, said to be big enough to carry a whale, lives in the Olympic Mountains, and Dask’iya, a child-eating ogress with kelp for hair, lives in the rivers.

The Quileute speak an endangered language

Jacob briefly says some words in the Quileute language in the “New Moon” installment of the Twilight series. In real life, he’d have a hard time finding a conversation partner. According to Brotherton, there is only one fluent speaker alive. But with help from linguists, the Quileute are doing their best to keep their language from dying out: “The elders started a school in 1970, and since then they’ve had language learning,” says Brotherton. Quileute is unrelated to any other living language—and the tribe has made it a priority to hold onto this singular aspect of its culture.

Reactions to the “Twilight” series have been mixed

In recent years, the Quileute’s La Push reservation has been seeing an influx in Twi-tourists. Many tribe members have welcomed the visiting fans, introducing them to Quileute customs, and the reservation’s small resort has hosted them. But the Quileute community’s feelings about the series vary. “Some of the elders we worked with said, ‘Well, we know it’s fiction, we know who we are,’ ” says Brotherton. Other tribe members were offended by the transformation of their origin story and Wolf Society into a fantasy werewolf connection.

Brotherton suspects “Twilight” helped the Quileute cause in this year’s land legislation. “There were several vocal lawmakers who worked closely with the Quileute and were aware of their notoriety” from the films, she says, “and then because of this, aware of some of their issues.” -Sharon Jacobs


  • Friday T. Sambo

    if they dont exist, how did the name came abt? Was it just formed??

  • T.Vincent

    What a wonderful article on the Quileute Tribe whom like all
    good and free things in this life are being threatened .
    Long may their ancient traditions & customs survive in an otherwise tainted world.
    It is harder to remain in the shadows than to be discovered.
    I do hope the fame of these films helps them to attain safety from rising sea levels as we need to preserve the old ways of the world, too much injustice has been done in the history books yet, in my opinion, humans never learn !!!!!

  • Sony

    From these stroies the old history has been known and it is a great article

  • anon

    Can they actually be real ,Can people actually turn into wolves ?If so how

  • Emma barto

    I love twilight I am addicted to it but I wonder if wolves and vanpires are real if so ware.

  • Some Clueless Cracker

    What Stephanie Meyer did was inexcusable. I like Jacob Black and Leah Clearwater and a lot of the Quileute characters in “Twilight,” but taking a REAL culture and turning the entire thing into a fantasy race? How stupid/tasteless do you have to be? Of course, this is the same author who thinks abuse is “true love,” so big surprise there.

    I imagine the reason people aren’t *too* angry is the fact that “Twilight” is a giant joke that no one can take seriously if they tried. If J.K. Rowling had done that though, there’d probably be more outrage… but JK never would, because she unlike Smeyer has a brain.

  • Christina Bathe

    I have got total respect for this nation. I hope they can keep there heritage alive forever.

  • Paramesh

    Their is a real chance to transform man to wolf is gonna be work or not ,is their were be vampires is their ,they are undead ,speed ,strength,cold, eyes change colours ,perfect hearing,is really work in present

  • marissa

    does any body like jacob

    • Bobby Harris

      yes I do like him I would say as a friend and a defender as well with due of respect for that

  • Bobby Harris

    I love things like this about the Quileute indian tribe who knows who they are and I respect them and their customs, now I am not sure about imprinting from someone who is a wolf pack, I thought hmmm could that happen or be possible sometimes questions are good to answer I plan to visit them soon one day love to find out more

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