Tëmikèkw: An honor and welcome gathering hosted by the First Nations Dialogues with The Lenape Center
The First Nations Dialogues with The Lenape Center honors leaders and grandmothers of Indigenous theater: Muriel Miguel, Gloria Miguel, and Deborah Ratelle of Spiderwoman Theater and Diane Fraher of Amerinda.
The afternoon welcomes First Nations artists, Indigenous arts leaders, and allies from Australia, Canada, and the United States.
All are welcome to join in this afternoon of exchange, performance offerings, and feast.
The First Nations Dialogues acknowledges with great gratitude the naming of this gathering, Tëmikèkw. We pay respect, offering gratitude and solidarity to Lenape people, elders, and ancestors past, present and future.
Spiderwoman Theater was founded in 1975, when Muriel Miguel gathered together a diverse company of women, including both of her sisters. They were of varying ages, races, sexual orientation, and worldview. The collective sprang out of the feminist movement of the 1970s and the disillusionment with the treatment of women in radical political movements of the time. Spiderwoman questioned gender roles, cultural stereotypes, and sexual and economic oppression and took on issues of sexism, racism, classism, and the violence in women’s lives. The groups interweaving of humor with popular culture and personal histories along with their sometimes shocking style, excited the hearts and spirits of their audiences, in the U.S., Canada, and all over the world.
Spiderwoman Theater broke new ground in using storytelling and “storyweaving” as the basis for their theatrical pieces. Performers wrote and performed personal and traditional stories; with Muriel as the “outside eye,” pieces were organically layered with movement, text, sound, music, and visual images.
In the early 80’s, the company emerged as a leading force for Indigenous women, artists, and cultural artisans. Indigenous communities in New York, nationally, and internationally identified Spiderwoman Theater as a powerful voice for their concerns. Sisters and elders Lisa Mayo, and Gloria and Muriel Miguel, from the Kuna and Rappahannock nations, from that time, formed the core of the company.
Spiderwoman Theater bridges traditional cultural art forms of storytelling, dance, and music with contemporary Western theater practice. Born in Brooklyn, the sisters have created work that springs from their own experiences as “city Indians”. As grandmothers of the Indigenous theater movement in the United States and Canada, they are mentors to an upcoming generation of Indigenous performers, writers and educators. In addition to presenting their own work, they collaborate with and incorporate the work of these artists into the company. The women ( and men) of Spiderwoman continue to move forward in their ambition to create an artistic environment where Indigenous culture stands on its own as a vital element of the larger arts community.
Founded in 1987 by Diane Fraher, an Osage/Cherokee filmmaker, American Indian Artists, Inc. (AMERINDA) is the only Native American multi- arts programming and services organization of its kind for contemporary Native American artists in the United States. These artists comprise an unknown, organic, highly diverse Native American art movement, based in New York City – a movement that encompasses the founding of contemporary Native American theater and film in the United States as well as the strongest contemporary Native visual arts movement outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Native visual artists who were directly influenced by abstract expressionists, developed Native modernism and post- modernism in the visual arts. The innovative, sophisticated visceral language and provocative paradigm shifting work of Native performing, media and literary artists established contemporary Native theater and film and were some of the first Native writers and poets to be published and widely recognized. Three generations later they continue to create important work through Amerinda that advances the construct of contemporary Native American art. Amerinda’s mission is to promote the indigenous perspective in the arts to a broad audience through the creation of new work in contemporary art forms—visual, performing, literary and media. In pursuit of that mission Amerinda has launched the careers of the famous and resurrected the work of previous generations that were ignored, thus changing the landscape for Native artists working and presenting in New York City.
The First Nations Dialogues
The First Nations Dialogues has been initiated and led by Indigenous artists and organizers from the US, Canada and Australia in order to support Indigenous performance work. It is designed to create new opportunities for production and dissemination of work internationally, to overcome the historic under-representation of such work in the US and a dearth of support for artistic exchange between Indigenous communities globally.
We build on four years of convenings and conversation within formal and informal networks in the Indigenous and non-indigenous performance sectors. We build on forty years of vibrant dialogue between Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and First Nations North American contemporary theatre and dance leaders.
The First Nations Dialogues is led by the tri-nation consortium of Blakdance, Ilbijerri Theater Company, Blackfulla Performing Arts Alliance, Emily Johnson/Catalyst, Vallejo Gantner, Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance and is creating the Global First Nations Performance Network (GFNPN), a transnational, Indigenous led infrastructure and resource that will increase the amount of and capacity for Indigenous performance works.
The Lenape Center
The Lenape Center’s mission is to continue Lenapehoking, the Lenape cultural presence in New York City by promoting Lenape language and the creation, development, distribution and exhibition of Lenape arts and culture.