“This program meant a lot to Remy and I.We were able to connect to our heritage on a level we did not expect.  We are truly sad it is over.”

-Angela Prater  & Remi Rittenhouse (Muscogee Creek)

“It meant connecting to me. Connecting to ” core” family, connecting to “local” family, connecting to earth family, connecting to “internal family. I reinforced the circle of living (in the broadest sense).”

 – Shade Little (Cherokee/Mattamuskeet)

“Center of the Universe brought our community together. I don’t live on the reservation so when I’m not learning our stories, art, or values, life feels like it is on pause until I can go home and learn. The activities actually helped me learn about my tribe through traditional stories, hearing other people’s stories about how they grew up, visual art, and performance art. It created a dialogue and a place to discuss.”

 In a society which often highlights our differences, this project showed us we are still very similar to each other and have carried on values similar to the people living at Cahokia. I didn’t know about Cahokia before this, even though it is in our own backyard, and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn.

Creating a performance together meant everyone had a role. Including everyone is important across many of our cultures, and Maura – you did a great job of making sure everyone felt welcome and included!   Wado!”

– Julia Soap (Potawatomi/Cherokee)

“I want to take a few moments and thank you for bringing The Center of the Universe to us here in The Center of the Universe – Heart of America Indian Center also known as Kansas City Indian Center.  Thank you.  I am truly grateful for what I learned in such a short time.  For example, I have a deep desire to draw/paint.  Before, I never even thought that I could draw a stick and thru your program I was amazed at my aptitude to draw.  I find myself so captured and inspired to explore this side of me more and more.

Miss Maura you also gave me the opportunity to cook for this project and in doing so I learned that the Indigenous People from the America’s had a great abundance of food — good, wholesome satisfying food.  Researching for my menu’s I found an ancient grain that the Aztec’s used called Amaranth.  When the conquistadores arrived, they banned it.  I was able to get some for our class.  I believe that everyone loved it and found it to be very delicious.  We called it Indian porridge.  It was refreshing to learn and experience the simple things that our ancestors used and most everything was very nutritional and good for us.

Also, I found that there is so much that I did not know about my own surroundings.  Like the Cahokia Mounds only 4 hour drive from KC!  And Line Creek, which is just across the river from where I now live in KCK.  It was bittersweet, in respect that our history books in America do not reflect our true history of the people who have been here for thousands of years before Columbus got lost.  People here had a great network and cities all over the America’s.  I am grateful that I now know of the Mounds here in Missouri and also in Oklahoma, Spiral Mounds. I am planning a trip to see the Cahokia Mounds outside of St. Louis.  I also want to walk across the state of Kansas on the trails that our forefathers used along the river.  To see, hear, taste, touch and smell what they may have seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelled along the way.

It is sad to say that in the first session, we were asked to tell our creation story.  Well, I could not find mine, and what I did find was contradicting to other stories, so how was one to know the true story?  I concluded that I will have to make the trip to Fort Peck Montana to the Nakota Sioux Stoney Tribe lands and hope that I will be worthy enough to hear my creation story from one of the Elders there.  I was grateful to learn the stories of several other tribes in this class.

The Ancient Indian Art and Artifacts from our past was very interesting and the paths we crossed to come together and trade in very large cities let me know that we had a great civilization for many years here in America.  We saw ancient shells and sculptures that told a story from long ago.  It was amazing to see Conch shells from the Gulf of Mexico here in Missouri!

Maura brought so many of us together from all over the America’s.  Thru her we bonded and came together as human’s and shared our stories, art and dance’s with one another, we embraced our heritage with love and each of us had a chance to share and learn from one another.

The art and craftsmanship of the Indigenous cultures had a reflection of harmony and closeness to nature.  It was balanced with simplicity even when it looked so complicated. The artwork of our ancestors provoked the human spirit for me.

I made several new friends and became closer to some that I have known for years.  I am grateful this day that I was a part of The Center of the Universe.”

Anna Maria Windham (Nakota Sioux, Stoney Tribe)



#7 – Sharing it All

On Saturday June 11th we had a joyous, powerful and beautiful day of discussions, sharing, dancing and making art!  We had an excellent turn out. ‘Twas a good time for both those sharing and those witnessing.  My only regret is …

Continue reading “#7 – Sharing it All”

#6 – They Always Walk With Us

On May 30th we looked at vessels & arrowheads from both the great ancient city of Cahokia and the ancient “suburb” cities directly below it.  Looking at these hand-made items, we are reminded that our ancestors are always walking with us…both in spirit and via the things they leave behind.

These images were taken by Maura Garcia in December 2015 during her participation in the research portion of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program. The original ancient cultural materials can be found at the NMAI Cultural Resources Center, 4220 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD 20746.  SITE INFORMATION: Catalog Card, Missouri: Cole County

Continue reading “#6 – They Always Walk With Us”

#5 – Putting It All Together

On May 14th we planned the hows, whats, wheres and whens of our final presentation. We finalized the dance and decided the format of our June 11th event:  a show & tell + mini-version of the whole project!   Continue reading “#5 – Putting It All Together”

Always Visit One Another

Visiting and eating together.  That is our way as Indigenous people and is something we have been doing since food began 🙂

As part of each Center of the Universe session we have a meal together: Indigenous-to-the-Americas healthy food prepared by Anna Maria Windham.  I think I look forward to this as much as the session!


#4 – Arriving at the Center


Warm-Up: On April 30th and every saturday, in order to warm up our minds we practice our dance.  To warm up our bodies we practice our dance.  So practice is warmup & warm-up is practice 😉

Mapping Our Stories Workshop:  Among our number we have people whose tribal homelands are as far as Washington state and Georgia.  What we don’t have though are people whose tribal homelands lie within the greater Kansas City area.  So how did we get here anyway?  That was the question of the day.

Continue reading “#4 – Arriving at the Center”

#3 – Painting Our Identities

(featured drawing & painting by Lupe Krehbiel)

Warm-Up:  It’s April 16th and we all gather Saturday morning to practice our group-choreographed dance based on the images carved on ancient conch shells.

Sharing:  in the old days, the men of the city of Spiro Mounds wore ear spools, or ear gauges. They were made of clay, approximately 3 inches in diameter and sometimes covered with copper overlay.  When I had the chance to see some of these at the NMAI Cultural Resources Center, I sketched the designs out of respect for the old, old ears they had adorned.  The thing that gave me chills was that Continue reading “#3 – Painting Our Identities”

# 2 – Our Universes: a storytelling

On March 26th we met for our second session.   When a dancer is involved, everything begins with a warm-up 🙂 We started the day in a circle, rehearsing our budding choreography (watch video here >>)  inspired by Spiro Mound art like this …  

Running & Pulling HairThis image was taken by Maura Garcia in December 2015 during her participation in the research portion of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program. The original ancient cultural materials can be found at the NMAI Cultural Resources Center, 4220 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD 20746.  SITE INFORMATION: Catalog Card, Oklahoma: La Flore County: Temple Mound

Continue reading “# 2 – Our Universes: a storytelling”

VIDEO – Dancing Ancient Art

What you are seeing here is a short dance made from the movements created by people at the first session of the Center of the Universe project. The inspiration? Movements and poses of the figures carved on 1000 -year-old artwork from Spiro Mounds, Oklahoma. The result? Dancing Ancient Art 🙂