Read Carlton Turner's Welcome here
ILI Welcome to Mississippi
By Carlton Turner
To change the nation, you must first change the South. To change the South, you must first change Mississippi.
Welcome to Mississippi. The name Mississippi is Ojibwe and means Great River. The name of the state, like many of the counties and towns in it, are Native American in origin and it reminds us that we stand on occupied territory. The Choctaw People originally inhabited this particular land.
Most of the Choctaws were relocated to Oklahoma after the 1831 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, but some still remain as part of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Neshoba County in Central Mississippi.
Mississippi, also known as the Magnolia State, is considered to be the birthplace of America’s Music and home of the Blues. American music traditions of gospel, country, jazz, and rock and roll were all invented, or heavily developed by Mississippi musicians, many of them African American, and most came from the Mississippi Delta.
Before Elvis Presley, there was Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Son House, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Lead Belly.
Other notable Mississippians include Leontyne Price, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, James Earl Jones, Jim Henson, Oprah Winfrey, Faith Hill, Beah Richards, Tavis Smiley, Robin Roberts, John Grisham, US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and next generation writers Kiese Laymon and Jesmyn Ward.
Mississippi. Just the utterance of the word conjures black and white images of state-sponsored violence, extreme poverty, and a race to the bottom of national education and health statistics. But for many native Mississippians and transplants alike, the word means home. This has been the home of my family for eight generations.
Up until the 1930s African Americans were the majority population in Mississippi. But the effects of the Great Migration, which lasted from 1910-1970, saw six million blacks leave the rural South and move to the Northeast, Midwest, and West. But even after that great exodus, Mississippi still retains the highest per capita population of African Americans in the country.
Fifty years ago Jackson, Mississippi was ground zero in the fight for Civil Rights. Thousands came to Mississippi to work with the faith community to aid in the struggle for basic human dignity for all of its citizens.
1964’s Freedom Summer brought busloads of students to Mississippi to register African Americans to vote, because although we had the highest percentage of African Americans, we also had the lowest percentage of African American registered voters.
It was also in that summer a little more than fifty years ago, that Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Robert Moses, through the auspices of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, started the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. They traveled to New Jersey in 1964 and challenged the legitimacy of the all-white Democratic Party delegation.
Fifty years later, Mississippi has the highest number of African American elected officials. But despite the increased participation of African Americans in the political arena, Mississippi still upholds some of the most conservative state politics in the nation. Good ol’ boy values that serve private interests at the detriment of the people.
Welcome to the Bible belt.
Growing up and out in Mississippi I have learned that hard work and talent are not enough to thrive in our work. There are still issues of access, which by and large are issues deeply connected to white privilege and systems of oppression.
Access determines what stories get told, who gets to tell them, and where they are being told, which also determines who will get to hear them. All of this affects public perception and ultimately determines public policy. This is why cultural equity is so critically important. This is why our work is so important. Through our work we create the environment for positive social change to take root in the most important place: in each person.
Our work in the arts sector is on the frontline of the imagination. We possess the power to dream and manifest change through our work as tradition bearers and culture shapers. Let’s take this moment as a challenge to live a better history.
Welcome to Mississippi.
Hosted by Alternate ROOTS
The 2017-18 ILI fellows’ first intensive was held March 23-28, 2017 in Jackson, Mississippi, hosted by Carlton Turner, his family and the Alternate ROOTS staff. We were welcomed by Carlton as well as local luminaries on the first evening at the Smith Robertson Museum for African-American Culture. Over the next two days, we met at the Arts Center of Mississippi and had a community cultural exchange at the Chokwe Lumumba Center. On the fourth day, we took a field trip into the Mississippi Delta to the B.B. King Museum in Indianola and our last full day was at the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation with a closing session at Woodworth Chapel on the campus of Tougaloo College, an important site in civil rights history.
Local luminaries and presenters during ILI Mississippi included Judge Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights; Pamela D.C. Junior, Director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum; Jesse Robinson of the BB King Blues Band; Hollis Watkins, civil rights legend and Primus Wheeler of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation. ILI Mississippi faculty included Dr. Maribel Alvarez, Sherry Salway Black, Claudio Dicochea, C. Liegh McInnis, Tufara Waller Muhammad, Clinnesha Dillon Sibley and Makani Themba. Stephanie McKee and Tufara Waller Muhammad led the facilitation with support from Carrie Brunk and Vickie Oldman-John.
Read lori pourier's Welcome to He sapa here
He Sapa Tanyan Yahi | Welcome to He Sapa
By Lori Lea Pourier, Maka Citomni Omani Win | Woman Who Walks The Earth, Oglala Lakota
President, First Peoples Fund
My Lakota name was given to me by my Unci Olivia Black Elk Pourier who made her journey to the Wanagi Yata (the place of the Spirits) when my daughter Shahiyela was 8 years old.
During your stay you will learn about the Lakol Wicho’an (the Lakota Way of Life) and how we are taught that our life here on Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) mirrors the stars (Lakota cosmologies). Our Creation Story begins in the Black Hills. Through story and in practice you will learn about the Lakota virtues of Woksape (Wisdom), Woohitika (Bravery) Wowacintanka (Fortitude) and Wacantognaka (Generosity).
A historic event in He Sapa occurred this past year. Much of the land behind “Harney Peak” located near Horse Thief Lake (just a few miles from where you will be staying your first night and directly behind Mount Rushmore) is called Black Elk State Wilderness. Recently, the name Harney Peak, (after Civil War Gen. William S. Harney, a “hero” of the “Indian Wars”) was changed to Black Elk Peak. I wrote about this history in an article published in the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 50th Anniversary publication, How to do Creative-Placemaking. Contributors to the publication also include ILI partners, Carlton Turner and Maria DeLeon. At the time of my submission I had no idea that the name change would occur. The change was mandated by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, against the will of South Dakota’s governor and senators. John Niedhart wrote about my grandmother’s grandfather Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) in the book, Black Elk Speaks. As a child Black Elk lived in He Sapa where he had his vision at the age of 9 (near “Harney Peak”). In his vision, the Six Grandfathers would visit Black Elk, take him to the stars and teach him the spiritual ways to follow. At the age of 19 he would become a holy man. By 1868 his world would change forever.
In 1874 Lt. Col. Armstrong Custer led a military expedition in He Sapa and reported he discovered gold. The gold rush that followed violated the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. The “Great Sioux Nation” or Tintunwan (Teton) Treaty territory included western South Dakota, lands east of the Missouri river and into the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Eight years later, in 1876, the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapahoe at the Battle of Little Big Horn killed Custer and nearly all of his troops. Black Elk witnessed the Battle of Little Big Horn and later the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. By 1910 our treaty land had diminished to the present-day nine Indian reservations in South Dakota, a fraction of the original treaty designated land.
The name change of Black Elk Peak may seem like a minor gesture, but in a part of the country deeply embedded in stolen lands and attempts at forced assimilation designed to wipe out the “Great Sioux Nation”, it represents a beginning. A beginning where our children who had little opportunity to visit the sacred sites in He Sapa, learn their history and are constantly shown negative stories about themselves and their local community on local and national news will have an opportunity to see themselves through Lakota eyes.
In 1970, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation would gain national attention when the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied Wounded Knee, led by Russell Means (Oglala) and Dennis Banks (Ojibwe) and more than 200 Indian activists over a 71-day standoff. The siege at Wounded Knee followed AIM’s occupation at Alcatraz and the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, D.C. Marshal Law was in effect on my homelands. In June of 1975, I was on a school bus coming from a softball game in Oglala when our bus was stopped abruptly as we watched F.B.I. agents as they surrounded the Jumping Bull ranch. A shoot-out followed. As we were older we would come to understand more about the incident at the “Jumping Bull Compound” as the F.B.I. documents depicted actual events. AIM activist Leonard Peltier was arrested for the murder of an F.B.I. agent and is serving two consecutive life sentences. Between 1970 and into the early 1980s American Indians would experience entrenched racism throughout South Dakota. Our community would experience one of the highest death rates and unsolved murders in the country.
The Oglala Lakota Nation (Oglala Sioux Tribe) has approximately 38,000 enrolled tribal members living on the “Rez” with a land base of 2.8 million acres or roughly the size of Connecticut. In 2004 Cecelia Fire Thunder, (Oglala Lakota) became the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s first woman president in the history our Tribe. First Peoples Fund’s work on Pine Ridge with our nonprofit organizations, artists and culture bearers has shed positive light on the homelands of the Oglalas. The Creative Economy market study conducted in 2013 revealed that arts and tradition practices are deeply rooted within the family household. Fifty-one percent (51%) of households depend on home-based enterprises for cash income and 79% of that consists of traditional arts and cultural practices. Today nearly 40% of households include practicing artists. The Rolling Rez Arts Mobile unit has reached over 500 artists in two years and expanded the Lakota Federal Credit Union service across the Pine Ridge Reservation. Today i’s members have reached nearly 2,500 and is deposits are $4.5 million. In 2018, First Peoples Fund, Lakota Funds and Artspace will break ground on the Oglala Lakota Artspace near the Oglala Lakota College campus. It will be a home base for Rolling Rez Arts as well as the reservation’s first studio, gallery, business incubator, and gathering space for artists. We look forward to sharing how our national work impacts one community.
As you depart He Sapa and our homelands we hope you will have a better understanding of Indian Country, the resiliency of our tribal members, how we carry ourselves while upholding our Lakota virtues, and our relationship to each other and as stewards of our ancestral homelands. Lila wopila tanka. Toksa ake wachiyankin kte.
Hosted by First Peoples Fund
The second intensive for the 2017-18 fellows was held September 14-19, 2017 in the Lakota Territory within South Dakota. The experience was grounded on the first evening by culture bearers who shared the Lakota emergence story and the offering of a sunrise ceremony the next morning in the Black Hills. We visited Pe’Sla, The Heart of All That Is, before leaving the Black Hills and then traveled to Rapid City for sessions on Ledger Art History and Revitalizing Native Cuisine. On the following day, we were at the Mother Butler Center for sessions including Courage in the Face of Manifest Destiny and Truth & Racial Equity through an Indigenous Lens. We experienced the Mitakuye Oyasin exhibit at Racing Magpie and a community cultural exchange at the Ursa Major Event Center. For our final days together, we traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation where we spent time at the Oglala Lakota Heritage Center, the Wounded Knee Memorial Site and the Thunder Valley CDC and had the opportunity to check out FPF’s Rolling Rez Arts.
Local luminaries and presenters during ILI Lakota included Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota), Founder and CEO Chef of The Sioux Chef; Kevin Killer (Oglala Lakota, Kiowa), South Dakota State Representative and Founder & Director of Native Youth Leadership Alliance; Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart (Oglala Lakota), Painted Skye Management ; Ohitika Locke (Hunkpapa Lakota), Dances with Words Poet; Mary Bordeaux (Sicangu Lakota), Owner/Creative Director of Racing Magpie; Cetan Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River), Dances with Words Poet; Marilyn Pourier (Oglala Lakota), Director of Development, Oglala Lakota College; Tashina Banks Rama (Oglala Lakota, Ojibwa), Executive Director of Advancement at Red Cloud Indian School; Tawny Brunsch (Oglala Lakota), Executive Director of Lakota Funds; Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), Executive Director of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation; and Scatter Their Own (Oglala Lakota including Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford, Scotti, Scotti Jr. & Wahpe Clifford), Family Band. ILI Lakota faculty included Kayla Shubert (Hunkpapa Lakota); Richard B. Williams (Oglala Lakota, Northern Cheyenne); Donald Montileaux (Oglala Lakota); Gilbert Kills Pretty Enemy III (Hunkpapa Lakota); Dave Archambault Sr. (Itazipo Wakinyan, Hunkpapa Lakota); Faith Spotted Eagle (Ihanktowan Lakota); Heather Dawn Thompson (Mnicounjou Lakota); Liz Medicine Crow (Haida, Tlingit) and Vickie Oldman-John (Dine).
ILI SAN ANTONIO
Hosted by NALAC
ILI San Antonio will be the 2017-18 fellows’ final intensive scheduled for March 1-6, 2018.