League Of Nations

League Of Nations

MONAH symposium builds cultural bridges



Since the first Native American Cultural Celebration three years ago, “the Museum of Native American History has been building alliances” intended to “connect the 14,000-year old-story we tell about the first people of all the Americas with present-day cultural leaders, artist, actors, storytellers, historians and Earth guardians,” says Charlotte Buchanan-Yale, director of the Bentonville museum.

It may sound like a mouthful, but Buchanan-Yale’s goal is simple. “The museum is dedicated to educating future generations about our collective history.” And to do that, this year’s event is themed “Tradition Through Pop Culture.”

“It’s a new way to connect with youth,” Yale says. “So many people know more about pop culture than history, so we want to make the weekend fun!”

That means there will be an opening ceremony with music by Navajo punk band Sihasin (See-ha-sin, pictured on the cover) and traditional dancing from the Jones Benally Family Dancers, along with a procession including representatives from the Native people of Arkansas, the Osage and Quapaw, and the Cherokee who passed through on the Trail of Tears. The rest of the event includes sessions on storytelling, food, herbal healing and Native painting and a performance by the Cherokee Indian Baptist Choir.

Of course, there’s serious work to be done, too.

“For the first celebration three years ago, our theme was around the Lakota medicine man Black Elk, who had a vision of all of the hoops of the nations of the world coming together — and it coincided with Standing Rock, where over 200 nations came together with indigenous and non-indigenous people,” Buchanan-Yale explains.

“Last year, we brought in 17-year-old Xuihtezcalt Martinez, who had just finished his book ‘We Rise’ and whose family created the global Earth Guardian movement,” she continues. “Now MONAH is an official Earth Guardian stop for programming. With Earth Guardian events and our Day of Action on Oct. 3 — where the Earth Guardians are planting a medicine garden for the museum — we are in solidarity with the Day of Action on climate change.”

While singer/songwriter/poet/actor/playwright Bobby Bridger was “the catalyst” three years ago, this year MONAH welcomes JR Mathews, former chairman of the Quapaw Nation and longtime artistic director of the American Indian Theatre Co. in Tulsa. Mathews will moderate “An Evening with Wes Studi,” a Cherokee actor best known for his roles in “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” On Oct. 27, Studi will become the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar, an honorary award based on his body of work and “for portraying strong Native American characters with poignancy and authenticity.”

Mathews and Studi became acquainted many years ago when Studi was invited to a “sweat” ceremony at the home of Studi’s parents.

“I eventually became the fire keeper responsible for putting the fire and rocks together and watching the fire so we could have the hot rocks by sunrise for the sweat,” Mathews says.

It was just part of a lifelong effort by Mathews to immerse himself in his culture.

“I went to my first pow wow at Quapaw when I was less than a month old and haven’t missed one for the last 67 years. It means everything to me,” he says of his Quapaw heritage. “Without a heritage, we lose the past and who we are within it and where we need to be.”

Events like the symposium are vital, he adds.

“It’s not very often that we get to control the narrative of our people,” he explains. “This is one of the rare times it is ours to present.”



Native American

Cultural Celebration

WHEN — 11 a.m. Oct. 4 to 4 p.m. Oct. 6

WHERE — Museum of Native American History in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — 273-2456, monah.us

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