While every year should be Native American heritage year, November is Native American Heritage Month and thus a good time to reflect on the ways that the recent American Folklore Society annual meetings in Tulsa centered Native American voices—scholars, teachers, artists, journalists, activists, tradition bearers, political leaders and others. Starting during my travels home, I tried, in a series of Facebook posts, to recall and evoke some of these Native America cultural workers who joined in the convergence of people and conversations that was #AFSAM22. I named this series of posts Indigenize #AFSAM22 because one meaning of that word is to “bring something under the control, dominance, or influence of the people native to an area” (Oxford Languages). I hope that the meeting participants I mention below—and other Native American individuals from Eastern Oklahoma who participated in the annual meeting—have influenced those who heard and engaged with them in Tulsa. Here in a single document are my ten posts with links.
1. Some who attended the meeting got to hear from, and maybe meet, JoKay Dowell (Cherokee/Quapaw/Shawnee/Peoria). Read about some her many environmental and social justice efforts here in the pages of the Cherokee Phoenix. Look up the Indigenous Environmental Network for info on the kind of pressing work that she helps lead.
2. Last night [Saturday 10/15/22] [Tulsa born and raised folklorist] Ross Peterson-Veatch won a pair of stickball sticks made by Cherokee National Treasure and ceremonial ground chief David Comingdeer. David took time away from his many duties to come to Tulsa for the stomp dance at Cain’s. If you do not already know it, the Cherokee Treasures program is like the ICH master programs found in Korea, Japan, and China and, if I can get away with saying it, it’s stronger than those in most US states. Folklorists should be studying it to improve public folklore practice in the US. Read about David and some of his work in Oklahoma Magazine. Wado David.
3. Some of you were in forum 05-06 in which Teresa Runnels (Sac and Fox/Muscogee/Shawnee/Caddo/Delaware) shared her work leading the Native American Resource Center of the Tulsa City-County Library. She does innovative work not only in classic librarianship but she organizes many programs that public folklorists would recognize as innovative and important. These include supporting Indigenous language activists. Here she is profiled as a Mover and Shaker in Library Journal.
4. Residential Schools are a major focus of concern among Native peoples. #AFSAM22 presenter and acclaimed artist Johnnie Diacon (Muscogee) discussed his work as the artist for Chilocco Indian School: A Generational Story, a graphic novel written by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder, based on oral histories with alumni, and published by Oklahoma State University Libraries. Find the novel linked to in the comments [now given here]. Learn about Johnnie’s work in an article in Cowboys and Indians. See it featured in the TV show Reservation Dogs.
5. If you’d ike to follow up on the Presidential Invited Lecture with Daryl Baldwin (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma), a new and accessible next step is his new article just out in The Conversation. [“Effort to recover Indigenous language also revitalizes culture, history and identity”]
6. Many of us were thrilled that the opening ceremony at #afsam22 concluded with the bestowal of the AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award to our friend, colleague, and mentor Charlotte Heth (Cherokee). During “This Land is Whose Land?” on Saturday morning she provided key understandings of the history of the Trails of Tears as well as hopeful glimpses of #LandBack today. Wado Charlotte! You can read Vicki Levine’s 2013 interview with Charlotte in the SEM Newsletter.
7. If you missed the Anvdvnelisgi ᎠᏅᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ Cherokee Language Concert at Cain’s Ballroom yesterday [Saturday, 10/15/22] afternoon you can read about it and see pictures of it in a fresh Tulsa People article linked here. You can also go online and find the new album including the performers and others. AFS is mentioned as one of the project partners. ht/KDS
8. As the meeting began, Kalyn Fay Barnoski (Cherokee Nation, Muscogee) took time to share their recent curatorial and exhibition work at the Philbrook Museum of Art. Philbrook has very important collections of Native American art, much of it with rich documentation. Later, in a meeting panel on collections research by and for native communities, they spoke of what factors can help Indigenous students, scholars, and practitioners succeed in museum internships, fellowships, etc. Learn about their work and practice on their website.
9. The “This Land is Whose Land?” panel discussion also included Vicki Monks (Chickasaw), a widely published environmental journalist working in all media. One of the situations that she mentioned in her remarks concerned carbon black pollution on, and near, Ponca Nation lands in North Central Oklahoma. You can find her original Living on Earth radio story on this issue linked here. In the story you will hear from Ponca elders Thurman and Thelma and Buffalohead.
10. During the stomp dance hosted by the Duck Creek Ceremonial Ground last Saturday night [10-15-22], attendees were welcomed by several Native American political leaders, including Muscogee Nation Second Chief Del Beaver (Muscogee) and Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilwoman Dr. Candessa Tehee (Cherokee). Dr. Tehee spoke of the dance taking place at the place where the Cherokee and Muscogee Nations meet and how good it was for these nations to be gathering in fellowship in the heart of the city of Tulsa. Dr. Tehee is also Associate Professor of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies at Northeastern State University and a Cherokee National Treasure recognized for her work in finger weaving. Learn more about her work on one of her websites here.
More could be said and I regret leaving some valued participants out, but ten is a good number to evoke something of what took place when locals and non-locals, settlers, immigrants, and Native folks gathered in downtown Tulsa last month.