Choctaw Student Connects with Mississippi Roots 

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) _ He has never lived in Mississippi. But the state is home in a way much deeper than his own birth.

``This is my homeland,'' said Thomas Olive, standing at the Natchez Trace Visitor Center on a recent day in Tupelo. ``I always get goosebumps when I talk about it.''

Olive, 24, is from Durant, Oklahoma. He is also Choctaw. Alongside Alyson Chapman, who is Chickasaw, he completed an internship from June through the end of July at the Natchez Trace Parkway, working in Ridgeland and Tupelo.

Through research and educational outreach, Olive and Chapman helped the parkway make real the story of the people who first called Mississippi home.

Even in the early years after statehood in 1820, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes still held as much as two-thirds of the land in Mississippi. The federal Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the Chickasaws and almost all Choctaws to accept relocation to Oklahoma.

Natchez Trace Parkway Ranger Jane Farmer in Tupelo was instrumental in coordinating the summer internship.

She saw the presence of Olive and Chapman as a way to interact more meaningfully with the history and culture of Mississippi's native inhabitants.

``It helps us learn more about the heritage of the people rather than just having to read it in a book,'' Farmer said. ``They can teach us. We can experience it.''

Olive spoke in a like-minded way. He hopes that his very presence at a place like the Natchez Trace is an emblem of the way Native Americans remain a vital and ongoing part of the American story and the Mississippi story.

``I think the Trace is heading in the perfect direction to not only keep the culture behind the glass window but to literally let people experience it when they are here,'' Olive said. ``It's not archaic. It's living and breathing still today.''

Among their summertime contributions, Olive and Chapman conducted research for a temporary panel display on the uses of fire. Olive's contributions to the panel delve into the use of fire in the traditional cultivation of river cane, while Chapman's contributions highlight fire's cultural significance for Native Americans in the area.

Other information on the display will highlight the ongoing use of fire as a forest management tool.

The temporary exhibit should go on display at the Natchez Trace Visitors Center in Tupelo sometime in the next couple of days and will be up through the middle of September, Farmer said.

Some of the research on river cane and fire will also make its way into a pamphlet under development by the Trace, Farmer said.

Olive, 24, is a student at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Credit hours earned during his internship at the Trace will allow him to complete a bachelor's degree in Native American studies.

Up next for Olive is a master's degree in Native American leadership at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

He is considering a career in the National Park Service or Choctaw leadership.

But wherever his future leads, his Choctaw identity will define him and Mississippi will remain a touchstone of that identity.

``The Natchez Trace has definitely become a part of my life,'' Olive said. ``It's an amazing trip to the mother land, an eye-opener, literally a cultural enlightenment.''

 

Indian Kids' Art Heads Home to Arizona from Louisiana Attic

By HENRIETTA WILDSMITH

The Shreveport Times

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ When antique dealer Ray Stevenson first saw the Chinle Boarding School student artwork in an attic at a Shreveport garage sale in 2000, he had no idea what he was looking at. All he knew was that he was drawn to the children's drawing.

``You need to get this,'' he told himself.

So he purchased the folder, which was filled with about 60 drawings, a 1964 yearbook and several black-and-white photos.

All he knew at the time that the items had belonged to a ``Mr. Palmer.'' One photo inside the folder depicted a man who was thought to be ``Mr. Palmer.

Stevenson then stored the folder in an old trunk in his house. And there it stayed for the next eight years.

Meanwhile, Stevenson's love of antiques morphed into a love of history, especially a love of African American history. Stevenson thought there was much about this history that was untold. He saw it as his mission to preserve as much as he could.

It was with this new perspective that Stevenson reexamined the Chinle art and saw that it was more than just children's art.

Many of the pictures had pieces of white paper on a corner identifying them as entries in the 12th annual arts and crafts show at Chinle Boarding School in Many Farms, Arizona. The labels bore each artist's name and age, the medium in which the art was created, and its sale price. An example: Arlene Nez's chalk drawing of a profile of a Native American man with long hair and feather was priced at 20 cents.

The closer Stevenson looked, the more he wanted to learn. After researching Native American boarding schools, he saw parallels between their history and the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

``Each culture has a struggle, and each has its own story,'' he said. ``Although we are all in the story together, each is different.''

One thing Stevenson learned was that the Native American schools were created by Christian reformers to mold children to be more ``western.'' An article in a 2014 Navajo Times article summed it up this way:

``These boarding schools would, as Carlisle Indian School founder Richard Pratt would so famously put it, `kill the Indian in order to save the man.'''

Stevenson reached out to the Navajo Times with his find and, in 2012, the newspaper published an article along with his contact information. He hoped to find some of the students whose artwork he now owned.

It worked. Stevenson learned that Mr. Palmer was a math teacher at the Chinle boarding school during the 1960's. Former students and teachers told Stevenson that they remembered Mr. Palmer as a wonderful person.

Stevenson contacted the Navajo Nation Museum in Arizona, and secured a showing of several pieces of the art for October 2018.

Stevenson then connected with Native American artist Elmer Yazzie, who stopped by the Stevenson's shop, Big Mamas Antiques and Restorations in Shreveport, on a recent trip to Louisiana to look at the art. Yazzie helped choose 12 student artworks to be shown at the upcoming show. Together, Yazzie and Stevenson made mats for the art and discussed how to present them.

As a former boarding school student and then as an art teacher for several years, Yazzie had a unique perspective.

While his boarding school experience was positive, Yazzie is aware of the schools' historical and not entirely positive significance.

``The boarding schools were a follow-up to the conquest of the West,'' Yazzie said, adding that the intent was to ``change the minds of the native students to become more Americanized.''

As Stevenson and Yazzie looked at the several pieces of art, Yazzie talked about the land depicted.

``This is so valuable because it tells a bit of their experiences that they have and appreciation they have for the land, the earth and the animals, and appreciation for human life.'' Yazzie said.

Stevenson is happy the art is going back to Arizona for the upcoming show.

``I think it is wonderful that the work will be going back to where it once started,'' he said.

 

Buffy Sainte-Marie headlining Detroit's Concert of Colors

DETROIT (AP) _ Folk music veteran and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is among the headliners of a festival celebrating the musical and cultural diversity of Detroit.

The Canadian singer and Native American activist, who was part of the 1960s North American folk scene, is scheduled to perform July 15 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center as part of the 26th Concert of Colors .

Sainte-Marie shared an Oscar in 1983 for the original song, ``Up Where We Belong,'' which was featured in ``An Officer and a Gentleman.'' She continues to release music and garner awards.

The multi-day, multi-venue event will run July 11-15. It again features the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue led by Was, a nationally renowned musician and producer with Detroit roots.

All performances are free and open to the public.

 

International clothing company exhibits Santa Fe-based art

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ An international clothing company based in San Francisco is introducing a spring fashion line that exhibits Native American-inspired art and designs, including a collaboration with the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and work by Santa Fe-based artist Gregory Lomayesva, who is of Hopi and Hispanic heritage.

The company, Tea Collection, explores a different culture around the world each season and creates children's clothes using designs inspired or created by local artists of that region. For 2018, the company decided to focus on the United States, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .

Laura Boes, vice president for design, said it felt important for the company to tell the story of the cultures that make up the U.S.

Boes visited New Mexico in 2017 and her team worked with different pueblos and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, eventually asking Lomayesva and other Native artists in the U.S. to create graphics that could be reproduced.

By commissioning local artists or creating designs inspired by these cultures, Tea Collection tried to translate motifs and styles distinguishing the culture in a way children can enjoy, Boes said.

``Making the foreign familiar and bringing that into the lives of children is really special,'' she said. ``I hope that everybody in Santa Fe or with connection to the museum feels proud of our collection.''

Lomayesva said he has taught himself how to create all his art since he never went to school.

The contemporary painter and sculptor often uses aspects of his Hopi and Hispanic heritage in his works. More recently, Lomayesva has started creating vacuum tubes for different sound equipment used in recording studios and branching into photography.

When Tea Collection approached him about the fashion line, he said he had to do a lot of tweaking before creating designs suitable for children's clothes.

``It was nice to chill out and stop trying to be some hot . artist and just return to the craft,'' Lomayesva said. ``It's so fun.''

He said working on this project took him in a different direction than his other works, one with more vivid colors and happier meanings.

``It opened doors to a place in my brain I wasn't using,'' he said. ``I really look forward to the future of what this has brought to me.''

Boes said she and her team worked with representatives of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture so that as the company looked to pueblo pottery for inspiration, it was not disrespecting the culture.

``A lot of clothing brands have appropriated Native American art,'' Boes said. ``We wanted to make sure we were telling the story in the right way.''

___

Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

 

Tribes say 'no thanks' to plan for scaled-back Bears Ears

By KYLEY SCHULTZ
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Leaders of five tribes accused lawmakers Tuesday of ``cherry-picking'' tribal members to support an 85 percent reduction in the Bears Ears monuments, and said proposed tribal management of the new monument would be in name only.

The testimony from Navajo, Hopi and other leaders contradicted lawmakers from Utah and some local tribal officials. They said plan to reduce the size of the 1.35 million acre monument designated by President Barack Obama in 2016 _ and reversed by President Donald Trump in 2017 _ was a response to a grassroots movement from tribes in the area.

``If you want the best results, you need to look at the local response, which is that they don't want this monument as big as it is,'' said former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who testified before the House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.

``National and local tribes and Utahns know the culture is rich in history, but it is vital we get the structure and management right,'' Chaffetz said. ``This bill allows for increased ability to have tribal communications and an increase in participation of tribal management.''

But leaders of five tribes from the region dismissed those claims, calling the plan to reverse the monument designation a ``gross overreach for personal and private interests'' that want to open the lands to development.

``The Bears Ears Monument is of critical importance, not only to the Navajo Nation but to many tribes in the region,'' said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

``The monument would be created by Trump appointees with consultation of the Utah delegation, who cherry-pick only a fraction of actual tribal members to be on a council,'' Begaye said. ``The `tribal management' depicted in this bill is tribal in name only.''

They were debating the Shaash J'aa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act, new monuments on 226,000 acres that would remain of the 1.35 million acres that were designated the Bears Ears National Monument by Obama before he left office.

Carleton Bowekaty, a Pueblo of Zuni council member, said the proposed reduction in the size of the monument ``desecrates much of the sacred land our ancestors cherished.''

All the land in Bears Ears was already owned by the federal government, but supporters said the monument designation was needed to protect important natural and cultural sites. But critics called it an overreach by the president that ignored local residents' desires.

Besides slashing the footprint of the monument, the bill also creates the Shash J'aa Tribal Management Council of tribal and local officials to oversee the new monuments that the bill's backers said will give needed local and tribal control.

San Juan County Commission Vice Chair Rebecca Benally said the bill is ``critical'' to allowing more local involvement in control of the lands.

``By supporting H.R. 4532, you are listening to a group who has been silenced for too long,'' Benally said in her testimony. ``The grassroots efforts in San Juan Country stand up for the old and the new, and I'm disheartened for current tribal members to discredit grassroots efforts to stand up.''

But other witnesses said the new management council would replace legitimate tribal voices with officials handpicked by local tribal members.

``Nothing about this council reflects actual tribal management,'' said Tony Small, a member of the Ute Indian Tribe's Business Committee. He testified that the local tribes that would be represented on the council are ``simply private citizens expressing their opinion. They do not represent the view of the federally recognized tribal governments.''

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, urged lawmakers to listen to the officially represented tribal councils, rather than local residents and lawmakers.

``We need to listen to the duly elected representatives who were chosen to speak on behalf of their tribe and we need to uphold a democratic process,'' Gallego said. ``We need to really understand what is at stake here.''

Gallego said that skipping the tribal governments is ``somewhat of a shame.'' But Chaffetz said there has been no attempt to circumvent the tribal governments.

``We've had well over 1,200 meetings over the course of four years discussing the potential monument and tried multiple times to keep in open contact with tribal officials,'' he said. ``Simply speaking, 1,200 meetings should have been sufficient to have an open dialogue.''

 

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