Pride And Perspective

Pride And Perspective

MONAH considers contemporary Native America


Charlotte Buchanan-Yale didn’t grow up reveling in her Native American heritage. She says she probably has none — but her “Aunt Isabelle by marriage” did.

“She grew up in the Oklahoma Territory with a full-blood Pottawatomie mother and an Irish territorial sheriff father,” Buchanan-Yale recalls. “She wore her Native pride so well.”

That was the first lesson.

Another lesson Buchanan-Yale learned early in her life was how to “bring more people into the circle to play.” It’s a Montessori concept, she says, that she applied to her career as an event producer, always trying to see “how many different kinds of people I could encourage to stand side by side.” When they do, she says, “they talk to each other. They share a space with each other. Art and music and the written word bring us together.”

So when Buchanan-Yale moved to Northwest Arkansas — without a job or family here — she didn’t know that everything she’d learned would apply itself to the work she’s now doing.

“I have watched my life spiral around significant road markers that have brought me to this day — to have the honor to be the director of the Museum of Native American History and to make this a welcoming place for visitors to learn these stories and to give a platform for contemporary Native authors, playwrights, performers, artists and historians to make Northwest Arkansas a destination,” she says. “We all have to realize that Native history is also our American history — and there is so much to learn. We see further as elders. We know history repeats itself. But the next generation? They see the solutions.”

Thus, the theme for this year’s second Native American Cultural Symposium is “Reunification Through Reinvention: The Creative Visions of Contemporary Native America.” Thanks to support from the Walton Family Foundation and a partnership with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the symposium will “bring together an array of Native cultural leaders for a weekend of performances, presentations and workshops” June 14-17, Buchanan-Yale says, and stretch across Bentonville to multiple venues, with MONAH as home base.

“This museum is more than art and artifacts of the past; it’s a fulcrum that can connect the past to future generations,” she explains.

Walter Echo-Hawk

Walter Echo-Hawk

Keynote Speaker

Born in 1948 at the Pawnee (Okla.) Indian Hospital, Walter Echo-Hawk saw more of the world than many youngsters by the time he graduated from high school. His father was in the Air Force, he explains, and the family spent three of his teenage years in Puerto Rico.

But he still wanted to come back to his native lands — and did, attending Oklahoma State University just a few miles from his childhood home before heading to New Mexico for law school. Why law?

“My folks wanted to see some change take place in our tribal community in the late ’60s and really encouraged me to go to law school,” he says. “There were very few American Indians in law school — you could probably have counted them on your fingers and toes.”

In a career filled with “very diverse” work representing Indian tribes and Native people, Echo-Hawk has been a front-row witness to what he calls “a very great social movement” not unlike the fights for civil rights and women’s rights.

“We have regained a lot of our cultural rights and heritage and pride,” he says. “A lot of challenges do remain, but we have come a long way” since he completed law school in 1973. “The centerpiece for the Native social movement is self-determination — the basic human right of determining our own destiny. Black America sought equality under the law, and that’s a goal for Native America as well, but it has been the central aspiration to retain our culture and languages and self-government, our ways of life, to be able to enjoy our world views and value systems and to retain our cultural integrity — which is a pretty basic, ordinary human goal in most peoples and cultures around the world.”

Echo-Hawk will speak at 7 p.m. June 15 at The Record in downtown Bentonville.

Mary Kathryn Nagle


Mary Kathryn Nagle

Mary Kathryn Nagle celebrates a rare combination of talents. Born in Oklahoma City and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, she is both an attorney — working for tribal sovereignty — and a successful playwright. She is visiting Northwest Arkansas this month for TheatreSquared’s Arkansas New Play Festival and will present her play, “Crossing Mnisose,” as part of the MONAH symposium.

The play, as described by T2 artistic director Bob Ford, follows Sacajawea’s journey as she guided the U.S. Corps of Discovery up the Mnisose (or what Europeans named the “Missouri River”).

“But that’s not all,” he says. “In 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement to allow a pipeline to cross the very same river. And though 212 years separate these controversial crossings, both reveal the continued survival of Tribal Nations in the face of colonial conquest. ‘Crossing Mnisose’ quite brilliantly draws a line from Lewis and Clark’s historic encampment at Fort Mandan to the present day, as descendants of the Dakota and Lakota Nations continue their fight to ensure that the Mnisose, and the lands that contain the burials of their ancestors, are preserved for future generations.”

Nagle’s play will be presented at 4 p.m. June 15 at The Record.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Environmental Activist

Charlotte Buchanan-Yale says Xiuhtezcatl Martinez was clearly meant to speak at this year’s Native American Cultural Symposium. She first saw him on a television program she was serendipitously home to see, she says — a 17-year-old indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist recording with Quincy Jones, author of the 2017 book “We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Planet” and founder of a movement that has grown to thousands of crews in 35 countries working to combat climate change. She invited him, and he gave up what might be considered a more prestigious event to come to Northwest Arkansas.

“Even in the first few years of my life, I could tell something was wrong with the world,” he writes in “We Rise.” “I learned from my parents that everything is connected, and what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.

“Even as a little boy, who could barely see over the counter, I saw the desperation in the planet I loved. I wanted to do something about it. It didn’t really have anything to do with being an ‘activist.’ I just wanted people to understand how I felt and hold adults accountable for what they were passing on.”

“I believe with all my heart that the stars are aligning with these young people who may very well save the world,” Buchanan-Yale says. “And it gives me hope.”

Martinez will speak at 2 p.m. June 15 at The Record and perform at the Forest Concert Series at 7 p.m. June 16 at Crystal Bridges. His book is available at MONAH, and he will be signing copies June 15 at The Record and June 16 at MONAH.


Native American Cultural Symposium

WHEN — June 15-17

WHERE — Museum of Native American History, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Record, all in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — 273-2456 or

BONUS — A free shuttle service will run June 15-16 between MONAH and the Bentonville square.


Native American Cultural Symposium Highlights

June 15

Courtesy Photo
Brooke Simpson recorded her first song when she was 2, but it was her appearance on NBC’s “The Voice” last year that earned her attention beyond her native Haliwa-Saponi tribe. She is one of the featured presenters at this year’s Native American Cultural Symposium in Bentonville. She’ll perform at 8:45 p.m. June 15 at The Record and at 7 p.m. June 16 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Live Painting — With Bunky Echo-Hawk, 10 a.m., MONAH

Reading — With Bobby Bridger, 11 a.m., MONAH

Storytelling — With Gayle Ross, noon, MONAH

Presenter Spotlight — Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 2 p.m., The Record

“Crossing Mnisose” — A play by Mary Kathryn Nagle, 4 p.m., The Record

Keynote Speaker — Walter Echo-Hawk, 7 p.m., The Record

Performance Spotlight — Brooke Simpson, 8:45 p.m., The Record

Performance Spotlight — Bobby Bridger, 9:15 p.m., The Record

June 16

Meet & Greet — With presenters and performers, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., MONAH

Garden Party — With Bobby Bridger and Gayle Ross, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Crystal Bridges

Forest Concert Series — With Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Brooke Simpson, Bunky Echo-Hawk & Digging Roots, 7 p.m., Crystal Bridges

June 17

Prairie to Table Dinner — 6 p.m., MONAH. $47. Tickets at

Categories: Maker Space