Georgina Lightning Update

There was a nice article published recently in the Edmonton Journal profiling filmmaker, Georgina Lightning, who visited and spoke at UMF last fall as part of the Native American Film and Performance Forum. Just click on the excerpt below to go to the full article:

She’s a film director, writer and actor who won emerging artist of the year at the White House Projects annual EPIC awards for her 2010 film Older Than America, a feature-length film about residential schools. She toured that film to screenings across North America and picked up 23 awards.

The reactions she got to that troubling story of the pain and abuse passed down through generations convinced her that more must be written about the paths to healing afterward. That’s what she’s back in Edmonton to do, using initial commitments and help in kind from the National Film Board, Alberta Film Commission and Truth and Reconciliation Commission to get started on a $4.5-million trilogy of documentaries looking at native depression and suicide, trauma and the healing strength of traditional ceremony.

An Indigenous King Lear

In a school year that began with UMF’s Native American Film and Performance Forum and ended with the UMF-hosted Shakespeare in Performance conference, it seemed like a particularly apt moment of serendipity to discover that a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear with an all aboriginal cast was being staged at Canada’s National Arts Center in Ottawa in May.

Directed by Peter Hinton, and starring August Schellenberg (Mohawk; whose idea it was, some 45 years ago, that Lear would be particularly adaptable to an indigenous /First Nations setting) as Lear, the play placed Shakespeare’s drama in 17th-century Canada, amongst a group of Algonquin people.

And for someone who is a fan of indigenous film, the play was a fabulous opportunity to see several of my favorite actors live and onstage, including a pair of actors that anyone who knows the film Smoke Signals will recognize, Tantoo Cardinal (Métis/Cree; Victor’s mother in Smoke Signals) and Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock; Thomas Build-the-Fire’s grandmother in Smoke Signals) as Lear’s daughters Regan and Goneril. Lorne Cardinal (Cree), who I know for his work in the television series Corner Gas (where he is very funny) and Arctic Air (where, as the heavy, he is just the opposite of funny), played the Duke of Albany. Billy Merasty (Cree), who starred in one of my favorite films, Shelley Niro’s Honey Moccasin, played the Earl of Gloucester. Additionally, there were several other standout performers in the production, Jani Lauzon (Métis), who doubled as Cordelia and the Fool; Kevin Loring (N’lakap’mux) as Edmund; and Gordon Patrick White (Mi’kmaq) as Edgar.

In the talk back after the performance, Billy Merasty observed that the cast had “had a lot of conversations about how to indigenize” the play, to make it not just a play with First Nations actors playing English characters, but to find a way to bring an aboriginal perspective to the material—to make the play work in a 17-century Algonquin context—in a more meaningful way than simply dressing the actors in leathers and feathers. One of the interesting elements of the production was the thoughtful way the cast and crew approached that problem throughout.

Most indigenous cultures in the “new world” did not share western culture’s gender hierarchies. Men and women shared power (much to the confusion of the English in particular, who had a difficult time recognizing women in power), and that dynamic works quite well with King Lear, which (as this production made clear) can be focused quite easily on two women, Regan and Goneril, as they take the land and the power that once belonged to Lear. Western gender hierarchy is definitely easy to see in the recent touring production of the play (starring Ian McKellen as Lear and filmed for television in 2008). When actors are on stage, we see men everywhere. Lear is surrounded by soldiers, for example, in the opening scene, and the stage is filled with male extras in most subsequent scenes. The Canadian Lear emphasized a gender balance onstage. Most of the extras, the members of the court as well as Lear’s followers, were members of the Four Nations Exchange, a workshop the production sponsored with the local Aboriginal community (mostly Anishinaabeg), and they were a group that was evenly divided by gender. Whenever Regan and Goneril were onstage, they were placed in ways that made them the center of the action and the central focus for the audience. When Gloucester’s eyes are plucked out (spoiler alert!), Regan does not stand by and watch while her husband does the dirty work—she actively participates in the act of blinding.

The doubling of Cordelia and the Fool (both played by actress Jani Lauzon) also contributed to the sense that this was very much a woman-centered play. The doubling of those roles has been done occasionally, and it seemed to work particularly well, as there are a number of moments in the play that suggest a relationship between the two (not the least of which is that they both die by hanging). Also, the portrayal of the Fool drew from both indigenous trickster traditions and English theater. The costume evoked the motley worn by the traditional jester, although the materials (fringes, beadwork, part of a British flag) drew from both cultures. The Fool’s coxcomb suggested Coyote’s ears, and Lauzon’s performance involved stylized head movements that similarly suggested a coyote.

Jani Lauzon and August Schellenberg (reproduced from The Ottawa Citizen website; photographer Wayne Cuddingham).

In the talk back, Kevin Loring talked about the development of his character, Edmund, the scheming bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester. He alone was costumed in European dress, his weapon a sword (and he is killed by Edgar, ironically and aptly, by that sword). At the beginning of the play, Gloucester observes of Edmund, “He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.” Building on the line, Loring developed Edmund as a mixed-blood character, his nine-year absence imagined as having been in the colonies with his European mother. There’s further textual support for that reading in the Duke of Albany’s reference to Edmund as a “Half-blooded fellow” (V.iii). The thoughtful development of Edmund’s character (and the subsequent costuming to suggest that back story) is another example of the way the production realized the 17th century Algonquin context, with a group of people still on the outer edge of European contact, but nonetheless beginning to feel its effects.

Props also contributed to realizing the setting—including a nifty canoe that glided across the stage as smoothly as if across calm water. For the ubiquitous letters that go back and forth throughout the play (and that contribute to the various schemes and misunderstandings), the production approriately substituted birchback scrolls. When the Earl of Gloucester tells Edgar “Here, friend’s, another purse; in it a jewel / Well worth a poor man’s taking,” he accompanies his words with the medicine bag/pouch he wears around his neck.

In western culture, comedy and tragedy are traditionally regarded as distinct genres. My sense, based on various readings and conversations over the past year or so, is that indigenous cultures do not have that same tradition—and that indigenous texts are more likely to include a mixture of humor and sadness. That emphasis on including humor in all types of stories may have contributed to the emphasis on humor in this production of King Lear (during the talkback, Jani Lauzon’s first comment to the audience was “thanks for laughing”). Given the tragic and even horrific (the blinding of Gloucester) events in Lear, the play text itself seems to suggest a lot of humor (or at least to be available for humorous readings). The Fool is not the only foolish character in the play—the titular character being the foremost example, and Schellenberg’s Lear is at various times presented as foolish, comic, mad, sad, and tragic. Effectively balancing and juxtaposing these different tones and emotions was one of the achievements of the production, realized in particular by Billy Merasty’s performance as the Earl of Gloucester. Gloucester is a character who first appears to us as comic. When Kent responds to Gloucester’s statement about his bastard son (“His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge.”) with a puzzled “I cannot conceive you,” Gloucester’s witty response is “Sir, this young fellow’s mother could.”  Gloucester’s foolish disregard for his illegitimate son (other than to note that “there was good sport at his making”) contributes to Edmund’s motivation to bring down his half-brother Edgar and to ally himself with Regan and Goneril against Lear and against his own father. However, when the sisters reject Lear and force him to spend the night exposed to the storm, Gloucester is the sole character to object to this inhumane treatment. When he is blinded on stage (punishment for his treasonous loyalty to Lear), it’s the most horrific moment in the play, and he emerges as a pitiable if not tragic figure.

What happens next is that Gloucester decides to commit suicide by throwing himself off the cliffs of Dover, aided (unbeknownst to him) by his legitimate son Edmund (in disguise), who tricks him (for his own good) into thinking that he stands atop the cliffs. When Gloucester survives his fall, Edmund uses this as a sign to convince him to continue to live. Different productions of Lear stage this scene in vastly different ways (the 2008 production plays it very seriously). The Ottawa production emphasizes the humor of the scene. Gloucester crouches lower and lower until he is almost on the ground anyway, and then tips over the rest of the way and promptly passes out. He remains face down on the stage throughout Edmund’s speech, and when Edmund finally rouses him, his “Away, and let me die,” is delivered from the same position without moving, and the effect (combined with the actor’s reading of that line) is very funny. One of the highlights of the play was Merasty’s ability to make the jumps in tone associated with his character work so effectively.

Reviews of the play that I have read have been mixed, with the most accurate being J. Kelly Nestruck’s review in The Globe and Mail, in which he describes the play as an “almost triumph” (and I would drop the almost from that). The title of the review “A King Lear in Need of a King” suggests the central criticism, a dissatisfaction with Schellenberger’s performance as Lear, while most of the rest of play receives high praise (including the brilliant costuming and set design, which I haven’t even had a chance to mention). That review title suggests that this was King Lear without a Lear, and that is partially right, although not in the way the reviewer means it. At least, this was King Lear presented as an ensemble and not centered on the title character. Whether as a consequence of editing or staging, I’m not sure, but characters such as Regan, Goneril, Edgar, Edmund, Kent, and Gloucester seemed to receive as much emphasis as Lear himself. In the talkback, Schellenberg noted the physical demands of playing Lear and that he was the oldest actor to have attempted the role, so there may have been some editing of the part to accommodate the actor’s age. Also, Tantoo Cardinal, in her first Shakespeare production, was so dynamic in the role of Regan that the director may have chosen to give more emphasis to her character. Whatever the case may be, the production felt like an ensemble piece, and that may have been quite different from some audience members’ expectations of what a production of King Lear should be.

Also, I saw the play in the second week of production, and did not see Schellenberg flubbing or stumbling over lines (as reviewers who saw the opening night reported), so I may have a seen a stronger and more assured performance by Schellenberg than the reviewers did.

Nonetheless, I think the reviewers missed the point in a couple of cases. Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, Patrick Langston in “All-Aboriginal Lear Doesn’t Quite Work” observed that Schellenberg “rarely sparks our awe or pity; on the weather-battered heath, one of the great scenes in English drama, he seems intent only on getting through the text as quickly as possible.” He also suggests that the “First Nations interpretation” gets in the way of “heartfelt fervour.” On the night I attended the play, the audience indicated quite a bit of heartfelt fervour for the production, and I suspect that the reviewer didn’t quite get what was going on with the production and with what he referred to as the introduction “of a lot of ritual into the production.”

The “Blow, wind” scene on the heath was for me one of the standout moments of the production—a very original interpretation of this famous scene. Lear is encircled onstage by his enemies, and while we hear the sound effects of the storm, the actors stare in at Lear as they simulatenously strike handheld drums. This is a visually and aurally awesome moment in the play, and it surprises me that the reviewers failed to mention this element of the staging of this scene. Granted, Schellenberg’s delivery is fast-paced here, but the effect created by the staging is that Lear is speaking to a rhythm set by his enemy, that he is as propelled through that speech as he is driven by the ferocity of the storm. He is no longer in control of his kingdom, his destiny, his own mind, or even the pace of his own words.

In what is otherwise an accurate and observant review of the play, Nestruck writes of Schellenberg’s Lear that “He’s a puny, human-sized king – which would not necessarily be a terrible choice, except Schellenberg is clearly aiming for a larger Lear and falling short,”  noting that “Only late in the play, do we get a taste of what Schellenberg on top of his game might be capable of in Lear’s marvellously poignant reunion with Cordelia, and again, walking on stage cradling her lifeless body.” Again, my sense of what the production was trying to accomplish differs here.  I’m not so sure that Schellenberg was “clearly aiming for a larger Lear.” As with the Earl of Gloucester, we have a multifaceted Lear, one who is indeed at times “human-sized,” who at times behaves foolishly, at other times majestically, and whose folly is often presented to us through humor and humorous scenes (including a marvellous moment where we see at the back of the stage a gleeful Lear being chased by two of his followers while two other characters are conversing at the front of the stage). That he saves the character’s most affecting moments until the end doesn’t seem counter to the story itself. In some ways, that seems a reasonable interpretation of this character—that it is only in the discovery of the death of his daughter that he has realized the full tragedy of his folly. That he comes to this recognition only in the final moments of the play is part of the tragedy.

Staged Reading of “Wood Bones”

Below are several photos from the staged reading (November 16) at Emery Community Arts Center of William S. Yellow Robe’s play Wood Bones. As part of UMF’s Native American Film and Performance University Forum, William S. Yellow Robe, Jr.,  gave a reading, worked with the actors performing in Wood Bones, and answered audience questions after the play.

The cast of the UMF script-in-hand reading of Wood Bones (directed by Kat Zachary).

Brittney Blais as 121.

William S. Yellow Robe, Jr., during the question and answer session with the audience.

Photographs courtesy of Hillary Tozier.

Older Than America at Human Rights Conference

Filmmaker Georgina Lightning, who spoke and screened her film Older than America at UMF back in October as part of the Native American Film and Performance University Forum Series, continues to show the film as part of an effort to raise awareness of the history of abuses at boarding schools in the United States and Canada. Most recently, Lightning accompanied a screening of the film as part of the 2011 Human Rights Conference in Los Angeles.

Decolonizing the Mind & Why We Should Be Angry

UMF’s Native American Film and Performance Symposium came to a close last Wednesday with a poetry reading and talk by William Yellow Robe Jr., followed by a staged reading of his play Wood Bones and a Q&A. Yellow Robe is about to publish an e-book tentatively titled Spam Rants of that Crazy Indin Yellow Robe.

While Yellow Robe’s poetry concerned itself mainly with the loss of his first wife to cancer, the mere act of writing poetry (as well as being an accomplished playwright) signals his concern over indigenous peoples’ ownership of emotions and storytelling. He gives his audiences a unique Native perspective and even when we’re angry, disturbed, or saddened by what we hear and see on stage, we (especially non-Native people) need to pay attention. As Yellow Robe tells it, he might be angry and write about it, but if we have no problem asking a crying person why they’re sad, then we need to ask angry people why they’re angry. And Yellow Robe is angry, at least in print. He’s not ranty, or spewing vitriolic negativisms as White people, but he is contesting both White and Native stereotypes and ethnocentrisms and as he said at dinner, it gets tiring to feel like he’s saying the same thing over and over and wondering if anything is changing.

One of Yellow Robe’s talking points surrounded the commercialization of Native figures as team mascots. I happen to agree with Yellow Robe, but more importantly he illustrates the diversity of opinions amongst Native peoples. James Francis, historian of the Penobscot Nation, speaking last year at Colby College, said that the official stance of the nation is ‘they don’t really care.’ What matters here is that because indigenous peoples are not mascots or costume, but cultures, they are made up of people of differing opinions. In a step towards decolonizing our minds, there must be an acknowledgement that indigenous cultures are not homogenous. In other words, not all Native peoples want the same things! Some care deeply about eliminating discriminatory team mascots while others are concerned about the trampling of environmental or land rights and, frankly, don’t give shit about mascots (to paraphrase Francis).

Yellow Robe is what we might call “pro-contamination.” As puts it, Native peoples have been contaminated by everyone: “We’re even kosher!” His writing is infused with his perspective as an Afro-Native writers and with the idea that authenticity can be found in actions, not in federal papers or the way one dresses. Purity is a moot point in this case. In owning his emotions and writing about them, he validates himself and his identity. But he doesn’t think his identity (or the identity of Native Americans generally) should be a point of novelty. As he tells it, numerous people have come up to him and touched his hair and his necklace and other wares. Another component of decolonizing our minds will be a rejection of exterior features as points of fascination, as something to marvel at and, by extension, eulogize. William Yellow Robe Jr. is not wearing his necklace or telling his stories to pay tribute to the past; like most indigenous writers, he’s writing to say ‘we’re still here!’

Georgina Lightning at UMF

After her recent talk at UMF as part of the Native American Film and Performance Forum, filmmaker Georgina Lightning paused to pose for a photo with several UMF students.

Laura Beadling & Georgina Lightning: Thinking About Indigenous Filmmaking

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the connections between film scholar Laura Beadling’s discussion of indigenous filmmaking and Georgina Lightning’s film Older Than America. Beadling provided a wonderful theoretical foundation to Native films when she defined them as expressions of “cultural sovereignty –opportunities to tell one’s own stories and create one’s own images.”

Niro’s Kissed by Lightning seeks to reconcile the traditional narrative of Hyenwatha (Hiawatha) told by Whites both through Mavis’s paintings and the stories told by Jessie, her dead husband. Lightning’s film, while part of the canon of indigenous filmmaking (especially with its 23 film festival awards!), carries a different message. Georgina (I think lunch, dinner, and a goodbye hug allow us to be on a first name basis) doesn’t hide her social activism. Indeed, her film and television career seem like mere digressions in a blossoming career as a social and cultural changer. That’s why I think we need to consider her film as something closer to a bottom-up history. She’s not retelling a narrative; she’s telling a story that has never been told. Worse, it’s been obscured by historical ignorance and blatant cover-ups of a sinister, conspiratorial nature.

What distinguishes Older Than America is its ability to be read and interpreted and its simultaneous ability to elude us all. Yes, its pays homage to some of the great horror films and thrillers occupying the AFI canon; yes, it has themes, motifs, symbols, and language all waiting for interpretation. All that pales in comparison to its status as a protest film, crying out against vicious abuses by the American government and myriad religious organizations. Older Than America demands an authentic apology from our President and our government. Its showing at the National Museum of the American Indian on November 17th is a beacon of hope that legislators will listen: “common” experience payments aren’t cutting it. Acknowledgement and proper memorialization are needed to work through a healing process –Georgina’s ultimate goal.

Thinking about Sound: the Auditory and Tactile in “Kissed by Lightning”

American Quarterly’s latest issue considers the idea of sound in American Studies. A thick and groundbreaking issue, the contributors open up a previously marginalized arena of American Studies to make us all think and discourse on the nature of sound and its relevance to American culture. With the Native American Film & Performance Forum now underway with a showing of Shelley Niro’s Kissed by Lightning, I found myself considering the auditory features of the film. Below is an excerpt of my response to the film:

Shelley Niro’s Kissed By Lightning explores the relationship between the tactile and auditory. Three central themes provide the foundation for the tactile: Mavis cannot touch her dead husband Jesse, though he constitutes her memories throughout the film; her paintings represent the product of her hands –with texture, life, and color, her art can be touched; finally, there is Mavis’ physical-emotional relationship with Bug which stabilizes the narrative. But with each theme the viewer relies on music to weave the plot together as the film cuts between memories of Jesse, Hyenwatha, and the Mohawk peoples of the past. Mavis’ memories of Jesse would be diminished without the sharp sounds of the violin to link the two characters; indeed it is sound that evokes her feelings of sadness and grief. The paintings function in the same way: while beautiful and a clear illustration of Mavis’ skill, their ability to depict Mohawk myths/legends only develops because of the use of “traditional” Mohawk music (e.g. drums, chanting). In other words, memory –that is, the past –needs music to connect the stories; music serves as a clear reminder that ‘the past’ is not simply visual, as viewers imagine it, but also auditory –one can hear the past. In fact, it seems Mavis can only see the past and paint it because she hears it in her husband’s stories and music.

The encounter between Mavis, Bug, and the African American singers lends itself to examination. Although a multicultural gathering, it reveals a set of assumptions on the part of the singers: there were “real” or “authentic” Mohawk people, that the Mohawk are “all gone,” and that contemporary Mohawk peoples know “traditional” Mohawk music and are always in touch with their musical “roots.” Interestingly, Mavis and Bug do little to correct any of these conceptions, except to say that they are indeed Mohawk. Their acknowledgement of identity comes with a brief silence that seemingly allows the thoughts to simmer with the singers: indigenous peoples are not “all gone.” But again it is music that defines the moment. After asking to hear a “traditional” Mohawk song, Mavis sings “Where is my Home?” a song written by Niro herself. The song defies stereotypes of chanting and it does not require drums or even dancing. Furthermore, it counteracts an older stereotype that white people make music, Native people make noise. Instead of connecting viewers to the past, as the camera focuses solely on Mavis, it highlights the transitory nature of the film, specifically the geographical and emotional transitions between Bug and Mavis. Other transitions take place as well: Zeus increasingly becomes more like his father, developing as a musician; Mavis’ paintings begin as images on canvas to legitimated “art” as they are displayed in a gallery, and the relationship between Josephine and Mavis.

* * *
As an aside, a huge thank you to all who showed up in support of our series of events. It bodes well for future events and, more generally, the future of indigenous discourse at UMF.

Native American Film and Performance University Forum Series

University of Maine at Farmington presents Native American Film and Performance Forum, Sept. 25-Nov. 16

FARMINGTON, ME (September 20, 2011)—The University of Maine at Farmington is proud to present the “Native American Film and Performance University Forum,” an insightful series of film screenings, talks, and performances centered on illuminating contemporary Native American experiences. This series of events is free and open to the public and will be held throughout the fall at venues across the UMF campus.

Native American actors and artists have been on screen since the earliest days of Hollywood, but in the past decade, have been exercising more control over all elements of filmmaking—as writers, directors and stars. There has been a similar movement in theater, as Native American performers have been taking to the stage to tell their own stories.

The purpose of the Native American Film and Performance University Forum is to make some of these sometimes hard-to-see films and performers available to the UMF campus and to the larger Farmington community. This is a rare opportunity to welcome Georgina Lightning, actress and filmmaker of the Cree Nation; and William Yellow Robe, Jr., actor, director, and playwright of the Assiniboine Tribe, to the UMF campus. These artists will share their work with the audience, collaborate with students and make themselves available for conversation and discussion.

UMF Native American Film and Performance University Forum events include:

Sunday, September 25
“Kissed by Lightning” (dir. Shelley Niro)
7 p.m.; Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center
Film Screening in conjunction with the Sunday Film series

Wednesday, September 28
“Shelley Niro and Contemporary Indigenous Filmmaking

11:45 a.m. –1 p.m.; North Dining Hall C, UMF Olsen Student Center
A presentation by Laura Beadling, assistant professor of film studies at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Monday, October 3
“Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War”
7:30 p.m.; Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center


Friday, October 14
A Conversation with Georgina Lightning
11:45 a.m. –1 p.m.; The Landing, UMF Olsen Student Center

Director and actress, Georgina Lightning, will participate in a general discussion of contemporary Native American film and media creation as well as of her own experiences in the film industry.

Friday, October 14
“Older than America” (dir. Georgina Lightening)
7:30 p.m.;
The Landing, UMF Olsen Student Center
Film screening will be followed by a question and answer session with director Georgina Lightning.

 


Sunday, October 16
“Older than America” (dir. Georgina Lightning)
7 p.m.;
Lincoln Auditorium, UMF Roberts Learning Center

Friday, October 21
“Two Spirits” (dir. Lydia Nibles
)
3:15 p.m. -4:30 p.m.; North Dining Hall C, UMF Olsen Student Center
Film screening in conjunction with the “Teaching and Working in a Diverse World Conference” on social justice.

Wednesday, November 2
“The Battle at Elderbush Gulch” (dir. D. W. Griffith)
11:45 a.m. –1 p.m.; Room 23, UMF Roberts Learning Center

Screening and discussion of D. W. Griffith’s short silent film from 1913

Wednesday, November 2
“Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Injun” (dir. Neil Diamond)
7:30 p.m.; Thomas Auditorium, UMF Ricker Hall

Wednesday, November 16
A Reading by William Yellow Robe, Jr.
11:45 a.m. –1 p.m.; Performance Space, Emery Community Arts Center

William Yellow Robe, Jr. will give a reading from a new book of poetry.

Wednesday, November 16
“Wood Bones”
7 p.m.; Performance Space, Emery Community Arts Center

Staged reading by William Yellow Robe, with Q&A following the reading

The UMF Native American Film and Performance University Forum events are sponsored by the University’s Culture Committee; Office of the Provost; Emery Community Arts Center; UMF Division of Humanities; Mantor Library; UMF Department of Sound, Performance, and Visual Inquiry and Gedakina— a multigenerational endeavor to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England and to conserve their traditional homelands and sacred places.

For more information, visit http://umf.maine.libguides.com/NativeAmForum

More information on Georgina Lightning and William Yellow Robe, Jr.

Georgina Lightning is well known as an actress (she’s appeared in dozens of films and television series, including “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “The West Wing”) and as an acting coach (working in over 200 films and television shows in that capacity). Her directing and writing debut in “Older than America” (2008) made her the first native woman to direct a feature film. She is also one of the founders of Tribal Alliance Productions, which their website describes as a native-owned production company that supports media creation by indigenous folks of all tribes, bands and backgrounds.

 


A well-regarded playwright, William Yellow Robe, Jr. has published two anthologies: “Where the Pavement Ends: Five Native American Plays” and “Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldier.” He has served as the artistic director of Wakiknabe, an inter-tribal Native American Theatre Company, at the University of New Mexico, and is one of the founders of the No Borders Indigenous Theatre Company. He has taught courses recently at the University of Maine-Orono, where he was teaching when he received one of the inaugural Native Achiever Awards from the Smithsonian Institute in 2010. His play “Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldier” was performed at the National Museum of the American Indian in conjunction with his acceptance of that award. His most recent play,” Thieves,” will have its world premiere at The Public Theater in New York, August 3-14, 2011, directed by Steve Elm