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Indian Times: Osage Ballet Fund Raises (Feb 16, 2013)

This week on Indian Times…an American Indian ballet is looking for funds to take it to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Randy Tinker Smith (Osage) talks about how it all came about…and the NMAI holds a symposium on the problem that just won’t go away…native themed sports team names.

SUSAN SHANNON, HOST: Randy Tinker Smith is a member of the Osage Nation.  After working with her husband on the road as a musician, they retired to Osage County.  Tinker began to work at the Osage Tribal Museum with researcher Lou Brock,  himself a musician, and that’s when she heard his piano compositions .

RANDY TINKER SMITH, DIRECTOR: He was playing some songs he had written about the Osage journey from Missouri to Kansas to Oklahoma.  When I first heard the music, I thought it would make a great ballet.  Of course, with Osages, our mind goes there.  With anyone else, this is interesting, anytime I talked to Osages about doing a ballet I never got a question but when I talked to people from any other tribe, they all asked me, “Ballet? What ballet?”  so it is kind of unique to our tribe.   There were five famous Indian ballerinas, two of them were Osage, Maria Tall Chief and Marjorie Tallchief.

SHANNON:  Smith began working on her plan to make her vision of an Osage ballet come true and at first wanted Roman Jasinski, son of the late Moscelyn Larkin, one of the famed five American Indian ballerinas, to do the choreography, but fate changed that.

SMITH:  I was meeting with over fifty elders of the tribe for over 200 hours of interviewing to get our story line down.  As I did that, my daughter Jenna was so involved,  she heard the story over and over.  She began seeing it in her mind.  So she ended up being the choreographer for the entire ballet.

SHANNON: The ballet came together and was performed last August in Bartlesville.

SMITH:  The importance of it, I didn’t really get the full understanding of it until after we had performed it.  And I had people from many different tribes come up to me, most in tears, saying ‘I remember my grandmother telling me that, or I remember my grandfather telling me it was handed down from my great-grandfather and it wasn’t just the boarding school scene or the we-walk-in-two-worlds scene or the prayer scene…it was all different moments.  I felt like there was a healing that took place in people, in native people.  We’ve been invited to perform at the National Museum of the American Indian and they're are a non-profit, as are we.  And so to raise money to go, we have a large cast and crew, thirty-three in our cast, and we felt we needed the whole cast to really display the experience that you do get from this ballet. So we’re having an art auction at Harweldon Mansion in Tulsa on March 5th at 6 o’clock, the art is both native and non-native art.

SHANNON: Some of Oklahoma’s best known native artists are participating such as Harvey Payne, Anita Fields and Joe Don Brave, to mention a few.  For more information you can go to their website


SHANNON:  Last week at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, hurtful names and racial stereotypes were discussed and dissected Thursday in a daylong symposium featuring such speakers as former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Dr. Lee Hester, Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.   The symposium titled “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports” explored the mythology and psychology of sports of Native American sports reference and took a look at some college’s efforts to revive them despite the NCAA’s policy against “hostile and abusive” names and symbols.  Nighthorse Campbell, in reference to the Washington football teams the Redskins, said, ''There's certain words you can't cover up and hide, they're wrong to the beginning and they're wrong to the end.'' In recent weeks Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole and Washington, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, have supported changing the team’s name.  To see this symposium, we’ve placed a link on our website to the video. (see above)


A few upcoming events in Indian Country:

 The 2013 American Indian Festival of Words will take place in Tulsa starting Thursday, February 28 with a 7pm showing of “Barking Water”, a film written and directed by Sterlin Harjo.  That will be on the University of Tulsa campus.  Saturday March 2nd Harjo , who is Seminole and Muscogee Creek, will receive the Festival of Words Writers Award.   For more information on everything going at the festival go

There will be a Central Oklahoma Cherokee Alliance Meeting Tuesday Feb 19th in the Bancfirst community room from 6-8pm in Oklahoma City.

On March 2nd, Saturday, will be a Caddo Festival, entitled “Balance and Order in Traditional Ways.”  This will be at the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.  There will be crafts, demonstrations, a symposium and dance performances.  For more information call 405-522-0765.


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