'Indigenous Rising' brings Native stories and artists to campus

by Madison Wilson | 1/29/19 2:00am

In its 250th year, how can Dartmouth recognize the failures of the past while celebrating its diverse present and future? “Indigenous Rising: An Evening of NextGen Native Artists,” an upcoming event at the Hopkins Center for the Arts featuring three Native American artists, is attempting to adjust that and represent more Native artists. 

The three artists — Ronee Penoi, Storme Webber and Scotti Clifford and Spirits Cry — will bring groundbreaking performance pieces of spoken word, music and theater. The Hop has pushed for more indigenous representation in art this year, featuring films like “Dawnland,” about Native American children in foster homes, and “Chamisso’s Shadow” about native Alaskans, among others. Andre Bouchard, a representative for Native artists, organized both the upcoming “Indigenous Rising” event as well as “Looking for Tiger Lily” with Native artist Anthony Hudson last spring. 

Bouchard, who is from the west coast and of Ojibwe and Kootenai descent, organized and curated next week’s event. He represents Native artists across mediums to promote Native expression and creativity. 

“As Native American people in the United States, there are so many stories about us by people who have very little knowledge about us,” Bouchard said. “And so there’s quite a few misconceptions. The grand idea is that we are out here replacing the stories about us with our own stories.” 

Bouchard also mentioned that the Hop has been very influential in promoting Native voices. 

“My work with the Hopkins Center has been an important extension of [expanding Native representation in the arts],” he said. “The Hopkins Center itself has been really on the national forefront of giving opportunity for indigenous performing artists to work, and they have made a significant commitment and a significant impact on the field through their leadership.”

Bouchard said that he believes these artists are generous with their work and are interested in cultivating relationships with other artists and even students, and is excited that the Hop will be featuring all three in the same event. After Hudson’s performance last spring, Bouchard found that the community is receptive to less traditional forms of Native representation and hopes that “Indigenous Rising” will challenge the audience.  

According to Bouchard, each of the artists in “Indigenous Rising” will incorporate some element of the blues in their work. Scotti Clifford and Spirits Cry, a rock and blues group from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, have shared the stage with acts like Dave Matthews Band and have performed across the country. The trio are very talented, Bouchard said, and see their music as a modern day “buffalo hunt."

Bouchard said that Ronee Penoi is a longtime theater veteran who graduated from Princeton and then went on to work in Washington, D.C. According to Bouchard, Penoi uses musical theater to explore the idea of generational trauma in Native culture. Penoi will be presenting Indian School Project, a performance piece that will explore the traumatic history of the Carlisle Indian School through song and satire. 

Penoi produces what Bouchard calls “complicated, cutting-edge theater.”

“In all of my travels I’ve never encountered someone who is using the performing arts — musical theater, for that matter — to explore these ideas around generational trauma,” Bouchard said. 

The final artist, Storme Webber, will be bringing her unique brand of performance art, poetry and spoken word to “Indigenous Rising.” The Two-Spirit artist will bring her unique perspective as a Native and Black artist to a groundbreaking performance piece. Her work crosses genres and includes themes of gender, race, sexuality and identity, among others, and was recently featured in a solo show at the Fyre Art Museum in Seattle. She will be bringing a version of that exhibition to “Indigenous Rising.”

“I’m hoping that it will make space for people to reflect upon the histories of their home families, particularly indigenous and urban native histories,” Webber said. 

Her performance at the Hop will examines themes of social history and memoir through an urban native perspective, Webber said. The work will include archival photography and audio recordings, and draws inspiration from her hometown of Seattle, she said.  

“I want people to think about the stories that are missing from our grand narrative of this country and elevate those stories … who is controlling the narrative is really powerful,” she added. “I hope that this work causes us to reflect upon that and reclaim those stories that are absent from our home people, and see those places where we can connect as working people or marginalized people in any sort of way.”

“Indigenous Rising” promises to be a fascinating and challenging look at Native identity and artistry. 

“It’s an exciting time to be indigenous. It really is …” Bouchard said. “[These artists are] a part of an emerging group of people that is breaking ground. They’re finding opportunities that have not been available to them before, and it’s only my hope that this continues, and even more opportunities will be available to the next generation. It’s my hope that young folk coming up will be able to see people like themselves on stage.”

“Indigenous Rising” shows at the Bentley Theater this coming Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. There will also be a pre-show discussion with Andre Bouchard and Native American studies professor Bruce Duthu at Top of the Hop at 6 p.m. and a post-show discussion in the Bentley Theater with the three artists following the first show at 8:30 p.m.