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The Arts
REVIEW: "The Road Back to Sweetgrass"
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by Rachel Hill, Mille Lacs Ojibwe,
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the road back to sweetgrass review-web.jpgBy Linda LeGarde Grover

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

September 2014

194 pages

 

 

 

Anishinaabe author, Linda LeGarde Grover (Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe) contributes to the nation’s literary achievement in historic fiction. Her novel, “The Road Back to Sweetgrass,” published in the fall of 2014, explores the realm of Indigenous thought through historic, Anishinaabe circumstance from 1970 to 2014. This book begins in the fictional, Ojibwe reservation of Mozhay Point, located in north Minnesota.

From a chance encounter during a summer wild rice harvest in 1973, protagonist Margie Robineau of Mozhay Point finds herself falling head over heels for Michael Washington, described as a debonair, Jay Silverheels-meets-Marlon Brando figure of the Miskwaa River Band of Ojibwe.

Michael and his father, Zho Washigton, of the Wazhushkag (Muskrat) family, were erased from the BIA rolls by an Indian agent during the allotment period, who reassigned them a last name of Washington. Zho becomes a powerful analogy of inspiration and transformation in this novel.

The character of Dale Ann Dionne brings a new perspective to the Federal Indian Relocation Program, when she finds herself in the metropolis of Chicago in 1970 working as a telephone operator.

Remedy of craft in satire is found through Grover’s use of parody, which evokes humor from her presentation of characters like American Indian Studies Professor, Dr. Roger-Head, who teaches a course entitled, “Indians of America” (18-19). At other times, laughter is provoked by characters like Teresa Robineau, who sports a 70’s version of emo glasses, compliments of her local IHS clinic.

From Grover’s artistic organization of novel sections, to her use of Ojibwemowin and English, The Road Back to Sweetgrass is clearly the product of Indigenous thought and experience in the modern era. Readers of this novel are sure to find resilience in that moment when you know your “own story”



Celebrating George Morrison, the founder of Native modernism
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by Cathy Wurzer, MPR News,
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Artist George Morrison was born in a Native American fishing village near Lake Superior, but his art career took him all around the world.

He studied at the Minneapolis School of Art and the Art Students League in New York City. He befriended Willem de Koonig and Franz Kline. He worked in France and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design — and finally came back home to Minnesota to teach at the University of Minnesota.

Morrison, who passed away in 2000, is considered a founder of Native modernism. His work will be on exhibit at the Minnesota History Center from Feb. 14 to April 26, 2015.

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Top left: Artist George Morrison. Photo by Dick Bancroft, Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center.

Top right: "Spirit Path, New Day, Red Rock Variation: Lake Superior Landscape" by George Morrison was created in 1990. The acrylic and pastel on paper is among Morrison's works that will be featured at a Minnesota History Center exhibit. Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center

Bottom: "Cumulated Landscape" by George Morrison was created in 1976. The piece is among Morrison's works that will be featured at a Minnesota History Center exhibit. Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard on MPR's statewide radio network or online at www.mprnews.org.


Native Man The Musical redefines Native masculinity
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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native man the musical.jpgThe paradigm of Native American manhood shifted with New Native Theatre's production of “Native Man the Musical, Phase I,” performed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival with its last performance on Aug. 9.

The stories were authentic accounts from Native men from around the Twin Cities and the region. New Native Theatre's artistic director Rhiana Yazzie (Dine) sought to set the expectation from stereotypes to previously unimagined identities by non-Native audiences.

“Some of it isn't pretty. And it's certainly not what the mainstream has dreamed up. Defying the stereotype of the Indian brave, the warrior, the oppressed, these stories are open and vulnerable moments necessary to be share in order that we might understand ourselves better, and possibly, the non-Native world can re-adjust its boundaries, fantasies, fears and misconceptions about Native male-hood.”

The performance features the life experiences of each cast member and interviews from men in the Twin Cities Native community. Among those in the live performance were Jeff Jordan (Boise Forte Ojibwe), Wade Keezer (White Earth Ojibwe), Jase Roe (Northern Cheyenne), Sisoka Duta (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Raphael Szykowski (Kuna) and rapper Tall Paul (Leech Lake Ojibwe). The production also featured filmed interviews with Dennis Banks (Leech Lake Ojibwe), Black Fox (Oglala Lakota), Chema Pineda-Fernandez (Nahuatl Mayan), Cole Premo (Mille Lacs Ojibwe) and Jim Thunder Hawk (Oglala Lakota).

One of the more compelling moments of the performance came when Keezer opened up on screen about his hatred for the warrior mentality that's expected of young Native men. He spoke in his video segment about the culture that he was raised in that praised stoicism and emotional repression among men and that he combats that by telling his children that he loves them, allowing them to feel their emotions, instead of shaming them.

In his performance piece, Keezer talked about his relationship with his own father who sobered up and later became a born-again Christian. “Some people started calling me 'the preacher's son.' I really hated that, I really didn't care for any kind of Christianity, for a lot of different reasons, but mostly what it's done to Indians. I'm sick of all the Christians, the Muslims, the pipe carriers; it doesn't mean nothing to me. All these ultimatums and stereotypes that they use, it doesn't work on me.” When asked what he believed in, he closed with a air-guitar performance of Twisted Sister's “We're Not Gonna Take It.”

 


Hennepin Theatre Trust Celebrates Andrew Jackson in Musical
Monday, July 07 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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web-hennepin theatre trust celebrates andrew jackson in musical 1.jpgArt imitated life after a June 19 performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a production of the Hennepin Theatre Trust that portrays the exploits of the U.S. president responsible for the Trail of Tears.

In the run up to the performance, New Native Theatre's Rhiana Yazzie organized a protest of the musical after she wrote an open letter about the play. In the letter, she decried the organization's choice of subject matter, “I think it was an unfortunate choice for Minneapolis Musical Theatre to produce this play and I have no doubt they played into the same disconnect the authors did, not considering the effect it could have on real people or that Native Americans might actually be audience members.”

In the production, references to Native American culture included the joke, “Tell me what's the difference between a little homosexual Indian boy and George Washington? Besides the fact you'd murder either of them without thinking twice?" In addition, Yazzie objected to the fact that Native characters were portrayed by non-Native actors who were written as stoic and speaking in a halting manner. Additional references to Native culture included the character of Andrew Jackson (played by Philip C. Matthews), disparaging Native art and music with a declarative, “Your music sucks.”

Peter Matthiesson, Author of "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" Passes On
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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laduke-passing on-peter matthiessen 2.jpg“… For all those who honor and defend those people who still seek in the wisdom of the Indian way…”,

Peter Mattheisson, from the dedication of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

He was a writer among writers, up to the last. Peter Mattheisson lived in an era of grand adventure writers, storytelling in words, and lived it well. I remember thinking that with our times together, walking, talking and watching him in his craft. I knew him as a friend, and loved him as a courageous and gifted man. He died April 5, after a gifted life. As a young writer, I admired his style and his agility. The word and the story is what he loved, a careful art, trampled often by todays’ era of tweeting and sensational journalism. The art, however still remains.

As a Native woman I appreciated his courage,that he came from immense privilege and had the heart, resources and tenacity to tell stories in a way, that only he could tell and that he loved our community. He was a man who could write about nature, and nuance of description, perhaps better than any other. He wrote 33 books and is the only writer to have won the National Book Award three times.

I remember Peter from l980, when he had come to Indian Country, in this case, first in the Navajo Nation, where I was working on uranium mining expansion proposals, in the midst of an arid land, already faced with groundwater contamination, and a way of life challenged by health issues of radiation contamination and an economic poverty forced upon a self sufficient people. He drove a rental car and I talked, taking him from house to sacred mountain, and elder to elder. He was an apt listener, crystalizing the essence and chronicling the stories. Then it was that he came to South Dakota, a place which would move him and a story which would catapult an environmental writer into a national controversy.

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