Archive for August 6th, 2012
The stories of Native playwrights came alive in a small art gallery in Arlee, Mont., last week thanks to a diverse set of actors.
As Bernie Azure, of the Char-Koosta News reports, the “Old Stories — New Voices” the Native American Playwright Festival allowed several plays to be enjoyed.
“This is a great way to tell stories, to push forward the historical narrative of Indian people,” said educator Julie Cajune. This is the second year Cajune has been involved in bringing the American Indian theater effort to local audiences. “People won’t always be inclined to read the history books but they may be inclined to view a play. It is a different approach to getting our message out there.”
Cajune said the end product of the effort is to guide and nurture a long lasting American Indian theater festival on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Salish author Jennifer Greene’s play based on the 1855 Treaty of Hellgate was one performed during the festival. Reader/actors included a group of students from the Middle East and North Africa. The group is studying at Montana State University as a part of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI.
Kevin Brustuen of the MSU Office of International Programs said there were 19 Muslim students from 15 countries involved in the month long summer educational endeavor. The focus of the MEPI is to foster better relationships with future leaders of the Middle East countries. It focuses on leadership, human rights, democracy and cultural awareness. All the students have never been to America before. The MEPI is in its fifth year and is funded by a U.S. State Department program grant that has to be renewed every two years.
“We try to give them a real picture of America,” Brustuen said, adding that many of the Muslim students didn’t realize that American Indians still existed as a sovereign entity within the borders of America. “They only knew what they saw on television, the old Western movies. The sovereignty of Indians in America is completely new to them. We want to expose them to the vibrant American Indian cultures that have a lot of similarities with their cultures. We made a connection with Julie and it has been an excellent experience. It opened the students eyes and they made connections with the similar issues that American Indians and Middle East Muslims are facing.”