Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Photos available below.
Seeking to renew the connection between historical traditions presented in its permanent gallery collection and modern Native peoples, the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville will present its annual Native American Cultural Symposium June 14-17.
This year’s theme is Reunification through Reinvention: The Creative Visions of Contemporary Native America. The goal is to bring together an array of Native elders and youth for a weekend of performances, presentations, and workshops.
Indigenous and non-indigenous people are encouraged to attend. “This is all of our stories,” says Charlotte Buchanan-Yale, director of the museum. She adds that the goal is to educate not separate. “It’s a good synergistic thing to come together.”
Symposium events will take place at the museum as well as Record and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Visitors and presenters alike will be invited into opportunities for understanding, respect, and increased awareness of cultural context by promoting Native art, performance, writing, fashion, cuisine, and film.
In partnership with Fulcrum Press, the museum will be home to readings and storytellers, including renowned storyteller Gayle Ross. She is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, and a direct descendant of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee during the infamous Trail of Tears. Ross’ grandmother was a storyteller, and it is from this rich Native American heritage that she tells her stories.
Workshops will cover topics ranging from Lakota bow making, led by Joseph Marshall III, to a writer’s workshop by Sam Scinta. Marshall was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux) tribe. Scinta is editor of the Fulcrum Press.
There will also be meet-and-greets with the symposium presenters and performers. The symposium will conclude on the museum’s front lawn with a farm-to- table dining experience.
Kicking off the symposium, Crystal Bridges will host the Thursday night film, “Rumble: The Indians who Rocked the World,” winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Jury Award: Masterful Storytelling. This award-winning documentary tells the essential and, until now, missing chapter in the story of American music: the Indigenous influence.
Crystal Bridges’ free Garden Party and evening Forest Concert will also feature storytellers, performers, and presenters.
The museum chose Record to host the symposium Friday, June 15 with a solo speaking engagement with Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) Martinez, the youngest presenter at 17 years old and the inspiration for this year’s theme. At 15, he addressed the United Nations— twice. He has a new book out, “We Rise,” and is recording with Quincy Jones.
Buchanan-Yale especially encourages youth to come and hear Martinez speak. “It’s important that young people come and hear him. They can register online to reserve their seats in advance,” she adds. “When Standing Rock happened, it was youth.” She says their generation is key to bringing people together on issues like climate change and more.
Martinez is an Indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, author, and Earth Guardians Youth Director, an organization with involvement in over 30 countries. His work has been featured on PBS, Showtime, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Upworthy, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Vogue, Bill Maher, The Daily Show, Skavlan, Q&A, AJ+, CNN, MSNBC, HBO, VICE, and more.
Suzan Shown Harjo, who has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is featured in the evening keynote speaker symposium panel. Harjo is a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate based in Washington, D.C. For five decades, her work to help Native Peoples protect sacred places and recover more than one million acres of land has led her to develop key laws that promote and protect Native nations and their people.
After the panel discussion, Bobby Bridger will perform with John Inmon and his son, Gabe Bridger. The headlining performer will be Brooke Simpson, who ended the 13th season of NBC’s “The Voice” in third place. With a large and ever-growing fan base, Brooke is touring, writing, recording, and has released her debut single, “2AM," which charted on the iTunes pop charts.
Bobby Bridger is a singer, songwriter, author, and painter. During his 50-year career, Bridger has performed all over America and Europe, and on National Public Radio, Austin City Limits, PBS's American Experience, Good Morning America, and CNN.
During the symposium, attendees can also watch Bunky Echo-Hawk create a painting. Echo-Hawk is a multi-talented artist and graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a fine artist, graphic designer, photographer, writer, and non-profit professional. He travels extensively, creating live works of art for auction. In 2010, he signed with Nike and is designing for the Nike N7 line.
Close to the Bentonville square, Record allows for visitors to explore and enjoy dining, recreation, and shopping downtown as well as easy access to the Museum of Native American History and Crystal Bridges through the provided shuttle service.
The museum’s complimentary constant shuttle service on Saturday, June 16 will connect symposium-goers to Crystal Bridges and the downtown Bentonville square, which also includes the Walmart Museum.
The museum communicates with the 39 Tribal Nations of Oklahoma throughout the planning and execution process.
To learn more about the presenters and events at the symposium, visit www.monah.us.
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