On the morning of March 12th, about 25 of us gathered at the Kansas City Indian Center. It was the first meeting of the Center of the Universe project. We started with introductions: ourselves, the project and the long, long history of urbanity in Indian country.
Photo Credit – La Universidad de Guadalajara
Jimmy Beason (Osage) was our first presenter and was perfect for a variety of reasons. Though all Native, none of us other than Jimmy are from tribes whose homeland is located anywhere near present-day Kansas City. Kansas City lies within the traditional homelands of the Osage people. The Osage are also one of the nations whose antecedents are responsible for the creation of Cahokia, the largest ancient urban center north of Mexico. Who better to welcome us to this mid-western project? Who better to orient us in the reality of urban, Indigenous Civilizations” of the Americas?
I followed up with stories of the “whys & hows” of the project and talked about the research I was able to do at the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Artist Leadership Program. I am sharing my findings throughout the project via a series of mini-presentations. At our first session, we looked at and discussed the the carved conch shells taken from Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma. Their stunning imagery was the inspiration for the dance activity of the day.
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
When I first looked at the shells, I was struck by how the beings in the artwork were often in motion and/or posing. With very little explanation, everyone chose their favorite image and created 1-3 movements representing whatever movement the beings in the image were doing. They presented individually and then worked in pairs to make a new, small dance of their combined movements. The result was so cool that it made me want to hug everyone: contemporary urban Indigenous people dancing the movements of ancient urban Indigenous peoples. Though some people chose the same image, their movements were completely different. We will continue to rehearse our dance at each session and add on as we explore.
We started in a circle and closed out the day in the same way. Everyone shared a parting word. Here’s what we had to say:
Almost lost, community, gratitude, reconnect, fun, cool, conch, was’te, good spirits have come down, harmony, creativity, pride, balance, courage, imagination, knowledge
As no gathering is complete without food, we feasted on Indigenous foods of the Midwest prepared by the fabulous Anna Maria Windham.
And I did end up hugging everyone. Sgi! Galieliga 🙂