Pow-Wow Days are here again!

By Arigon Starr
News From Indian Country 6-08

It’s another quintessential morning here in Los Angeles, California. Yesterday, it was hot in Hollywood - literally. A huge fire took out some of the historic buildings and sets on the Universal Studios lot, yet the show went on the same evening for the MTV Movie Awards at the Gibson Amphitheater, which is right up the hill on the same property.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I live here, because with all the history of the movies and television all around me, it’s hard to not feel like the star of my own TV show.

As magic as it can be here in Hollywood, I frequently get the call to travel to far and distant places to play my artistic trade. Because I am truly a Kickapoo Indian Woman, I always have my bag packed and ready to go.

Recently, I was honored to perform my one-woman show “The Red Road” as part of the 16th ASSITEJ World Youth Theater Festival in Adelaide, Australia. There were participants from over fifty countries and “The Red Road” was the first time a Native American performer had been invited to present their work as part of the international events. The festival directors made a point to honor the Aboriginal people of Adelaide. They asked Native Voices at the Autry’s Artistic Director Randy Reinholz (Choctaw), Production Manager Rose-Yvonne Colletta (Mescalero Apache/Lipan) and me to present local elders from the Kaurna People with a traditional honoring from Native America. We presented them with Pendleton Blankets and other gifts from around Indian Country and they presented us with gifts of possum fur bundles wrapped with eagle feathers.

One of my huge worries (aside from being the sole artistic representative of Native America!) was whether the down-home Native humor of “The Red Road” would translate to an international audience. To get “The Red Road” into shape, I worked extensively with Jean Bruce Scott, the fantastic Executive Director of Native Voices at the Autry, along with Kristof Konrad, an expert Alexander Technique movement coach. We worked on all eleven characters in the show, making sure each was distinct and on-target. The hours of rehearsal paid off as ASSITEJ Festival audiences warmly received the show. Even a group of Korean actor/dancers were compelled to enthusiastically clap along with each song in the show.

Talk about a slam dunk. Score one for Native America!

When the show moved onto Brisbane, the Aboriginal community came out in big numbers for the show at the Queensland State Library. The State Government of Queensland is supportive of their Native people and built the community their own Indigenous Knowledge Centre called “kuril dahgun.” Both are local aboriginal words that describe a local marsupial and the gathering place aspect of the Centre. “Kuril” means “Water Rat” and “Dahgun” means “Earth/Place/Country.”

The Queensland Library recently received a multi-million dollar facelift and “The Red Road” was the very first theater production in their new auditorium. On the day of the show, Jean Bruce Scott, Rose-Yvonne Colletta, Wacky Productions’ CEO Janet Miner and I visited the Aboriginal Center For The Performing Arts and enjoyed several dance performances. Afterwards, we spoke to the students about becoming professional performers and finding work in the entertainment business. It’s always a pleasure to share what I’ve learned with young folks! The students returned the favor and came with their families to the performance of “The Red Road” and laughed and applauded with gusto. It was almost as good as performing for local Native crowds in Tulsa, OK and Albuquerque, NM. Many of the Aboriginal attendees told me after the show they were surprised to realize that our communities had so much in common.

With this success under my belt, it’s now on to a summer of shows around the U.S. – which brings me back to Pow-Wow Days.

I was the host and performer at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival in Okmulgee, Oklahoma on June 20 and 21st. I was honored to perform for my Mom’s people (she’s an enrolled Creek) and excited for the opportunity to open for country legend John Anderson. There will be tons of activities for the whole family, including sports, arts and even a PRCA Rodeo.

“The Red Road” is also returning as part of the prestigious Idyllwild Native Arts Festival. The festival takes place from July 6-11th in the beautiful mountain community of Idyllwild, California near Temecula. “The Red Road” will be the culminating event of the festival on Friday, July 11th at 6:30 pm. All of the lectures and events are open to the public. Check out the Idyllwild Arts Festival link at the end of the article.

The Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas has also included me as part of the entertainment for their upcoming Kickapoo Pow-Wow Days near Horton, Kansas. I’ll be performing on Saturday, July 19th. It’s going to be a real treat to meet some of my northern cousins.

Wherever you find yourself this summer Pow-Wow season, stay safe and think kindly of others. If you’ve got an extra Pow-Wow chair, bring it with you so I’ll have somewhere to sit. It’s hard to fit those in the airplane’s overhead compartment. AAAY!

For More Information:

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival:

Kickapoo Pow-Wow Days: