“Indigenous Artists Gathering 2015 — Minneapolis, Minnesota”
By Ashley Minner, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina
First Published by Alternate ROOTS
Way back in deepest, darkest winter – on February 24th, to be exact – a message from ROOTS member Andrea Assaf appeared in my inbox and brightened my day. It was a special invitation to attend an Indigenous Artists Gathering in Minneapolis, MN as a representative of ROOTS. The invitation, from Pangea World Theater and Art2Action Inc., in partnership with the First Peoples Fund and New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) read: “During the pilot phase of developing the National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation … it was glaringly obvious that many of the existing theater networks did not include any Native-identified, First Peoples or Indigenous artists …”
Present at this historic, unprecedented convening were representatives of Native communities from Alaska all the way to Panama. This is not to say that all Native communities were represented, nor that everyone who should have been there was there. But it was a good start, with space and time to discuss who was absent from the conversation and how to get us all together in the future.
[Quoting Mr. William S. Yellow Robe Jr.:] “…Part of this reconciliation is that we have to identify our pasts. Everyone in the theater wants to move forward and I agree that has to happen, but let’s not forget our past. Let’s not forget those that broke ground that made it possible for all of these other groups to exist.”
…In the legacy of settler colonialism — which, by definition, never really ends — Native people have to disappear. They are a “‘present absence’ in the U.S. colonial imagination, an ‘absence’ that reinforces, at every turn, the conviction that Native peoples are indeed vanishing and the conquest of Native land is justified.”[ii] Being that blood was shed on the land upon which we stand…We should acknowledge Native communities wherever we live and work on this land.