- By Tamara Ikenberg
This weekend and next week, Indian Country is stacked with so many cool cultural happenings that you may have to take a couple days off to take it all in.
The onslaught of awesome events includes a powerful lecture and a brand new piece of ledger art from an acclaimed Oglala Lakota artist, a moody film masterpiece depicting Southwest Native Americans indulging in the wild Los Angeles nightlife, and a chance to connect with a trailblazing Indigenous politician and author.
Don’t get too flustered trying to figure out what to do and what to eschew. Native News Online’s handy event guide is here to help.
32nd Annual Oscar Howe Memorial Lecture on American Indian Art
WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Farber Hall at the University of South Dakota, 414 E. Clark St., Vermillion, SD; Event page
”Holding On, Reaching Out,” the title of Oglala Lakota Ledger artist Donald Montileaux’s upcoming lecture, cuts right to the core.
“It’s exactly what every Native American does in this world to achieve success,” said Montileaux, who will be delivering the annual Oscar Howe Memorial Lecture on American Indian Art at the University of South Dakota, told Native News Online. “You've got to hold onto your culture, but you’ve got to reach out for success in a non-Native culture.”
Montileaux and the late Yanktonai Dakota artist and professor Oscar Howe both achieved that crucial and elusive balance in their lifetimes.
Montileaux, who was a student and friend of Howe, will talk about the contributions and accomplishments of Howe and other brave and groundbreaking predecessors and contemporaries during an hour-long lecture and Powerpoint presentation.
“I've always admired Oscar because of who he was, what he accomplished and his style of art. He was way ahead of his time. That's a true mark of a master artist,” Montileaux said. He added that he admired the way Howe held his own in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, when the country at large, and the art and education worlds in particular, held many prejudices against Native Americans.
“People didn't think that Native Americans could teach anything. Had it not been for Oscar and other people strong enough to continue to fight for Native Americans to have an opportunity to showcase themselves, we probably would still be in the same place we were back then,” Montileaux said. “Oscar was everything I wanted to be. I loved the fact that he was an accepted artist in society. And I love the fact that he was a teacher of fine arts, and also a family man. That's what I wanted to be.”
That ambition, mixed with his passion for honestly portraying the Lakota lifestyle through his work, combined to make Montileaux a highly respected and in-demand artist.
Montileaux, also an author and illustrator, was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2014, and his work has been displayed in galleries in New Mexico, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, and South Dakota.
Montileaux defines his artistic mission on his website: "To portray the Lakota, the Native Americans, in an honest way. To illustrate them as people who hunted buffalo, made love, raised children, cooked meals, and lived.”
He is currently preparing one of those portrayals to debut at the lecture, while he simultaneously plans out his presentation.
“So far it’s turning out exactly how I want it. I’ve added a lot of mixed media, but the base of it is three teepees and two warriors talking. It’s kind of a night scene,” he said. “I’m going to have geometric designs going up and down on the bottom and the top, and the teepees have buffaloes and horses on them.”
Montileaux said he wants his new piece to add a fresh pop of relevant art to the event.
“I want to get this done,” he said, “and I want to put it on an easel out front.”
Film Screening: 'The Exiles'
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 25, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
WHERE: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 12th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM; Tickets are $10. Children under 5 are free. Purchase here. https://indianpueblo.org/event/the-exiles-film-screening/
When it comes to classic coming-of-age nostalgia flicks depicting the American experience in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, “West Side Story,” “American Graffiti,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Grease” are the general go-tos.
Now that the 1961 masterpiece “The Exiles” has come out of hiding, there is a new classic to add to the list. And unlike the others, this one focuses on the Native American experience of that era.
On Saturday, “The Exiles” will be screened in the courtyard of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. In addition to the screening, the evening will also feature a panel discussion about the Urban Indian Relocation Program, and a 1950s dress contest.
Directed by University of Southern California film student Kent McKenzie, “The Exiles” was never commercially released, and languished in archival collections for decades.
The revelatory film, hailed as “urban poetry'' by critics, chronicles a hard-partying night in the life of a group of young Southwest Natives who have relocated from their tribal lands to Los Angeles.
Flickering with city lights, booming with jazz, rock and boogie, and flush with fighting, dancing and flirting, the fast-paced film shot in moody black and white is considered by Native American writers and activists to be a harbinger of the American Indian cultural renaissance starting in the 1970s.
Kenneth Turan of the LA Times is one of many critics who have hailed the film’s genius and gritty reality.
“The story of these aimless, trapped individuals, cut off from anything that could be meaningful, draws you like quicksand, slowly but inexorably,” he wrote. “Rootless and dispossessed at a time when taking pride in the culture you were born into wasn't done, these people are deeply troubled without being able to articulate the cause. Which is why it is so moving to have this lost film about different forms of loss back among us again."
Although it wasn’t directed or produced by a Native American, “The Exiles” is a collaborative project between the filmmakers and the Indigenous actors, none of whom are professional performers. To craft an authentic and vivid visual story, McKenzie listened to the real life stories of the cast and developed the film based on their input and experiences.
“The Exiles” was practically impossible to find and was largely forgotten until 2003, when the documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” featured luminous and poetic night scenes from the movie.
Milestone Films eventually acquired the movie from McKenzie’s daughters and released a restored version in 2008. For more information about “The Exiles” visit exilesfilm.com.
The National Book Festival Presents a Q and A with Rep. Sharice Davids
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 26, 2 p.m. EDT
WHERE: Watch here
Kansas Rep. and Ho-Chunk Nation member Sharice Davids has always had the gift of gab.
“When I was a kid I talked a lot. I got in trouble at school sometimes for talking a lot, and it turned out that that ended up being one of my bigger strengths,” Rep. Davids said in a National Book Festival interview.
The loquacious student who grew up to become one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress, recently channeled her authentic voice and uplifting life story into the new illustrated childrens’ book Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman.
Next Wednesday, book lovers are invited to personally connect with Rep. Davids during an online Q and A that is part of the Library of Congress’s 2021 National Book Festival.
From her views on Native representation in literature, to her experiences in public service, there are countless themes and ideas to discuss with Rep.Davids, who hopes her debut book persuades readers to utilize their own big voices for positive change.
“We have so many different people in our country with different experiences and sometimes we don’t get to hear all of those stories,” she said. “ I hope that kids and anyone else who reads the book can see that all of us have our own path and journey and one of the most important things we can do is be true to ourselves.”
In the online interview Rep. Davids noted that as a child, she struggled to find compelling reading material with which she could identify.
“I didn’t see characters I connected with,” she said.. ”Who knows? Maybe if I had seen more books when I was younger that I really connected with maybe I would have gotten into reading and writing earlier.”
Taking the initiative to write the type of book that would have sparked her interest and imagination as a child, is a significant step toward a more equitable and inclusive world of reading for kids who don’t normally see themselves and their experiences reflected on the page.
“I think a lot of us know what it’s like to feel small and invisible and not heard,” she said. “I hope this book will help people see they’re not alone in their experiences and they deserve to be seen and heard just like everybody else.”
2021 IAIA Annual Open House
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. MDT
For half a century, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has been promoting and advancing contemporary Native arts.
Next week, folks curious about attending the Institute, and people simply looking for a cool, comprehensive Native American art event, will have the opportunity to explore the campus and sample the school’s offerings both in-person and online at the 2021 Annual Open House.
At the event, visitors will be welcomed into open studios, classrooms and galleries, where they can witness a bronze pour, acting class demonstrations, readings from creative writing students, and art exhibitions. A Fall book sale and guided campus tours, both virtual and in-person, are also on the agenda.
In addition to the artistic elements, attendees will also get an overview of IAIA’s Land-Grant Program, including an introduction to the school’s new pollinating inhabitants, The Thunder Bees.
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