Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Summit to tell ‘Secret History’ of American Indians on stage

April 17, 2005


A play featuring the voices and experiences of American Indians in Lawrence will be the centerpiece of a summit aimed at forging better understanding among city residents.

"I think all of the diversity here is what makes Lawrence a special place, but it also creates some assumptions and other things without pulling people together," said Scott McMichael, community development director at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

April 30 will mark the third annual Bert Nash Building a Better Community Summit. This year's event, titled "Bridging Cultures: The Native American Experience," will feature speakers, a play about American Indians based on interviews done in Lawrence, and a panel discussion. It will be at Kansas University's Lied Center.

Organizing the summit with Bert Nash are Haskell Indian Nations University, KU and local businesses.

Lori Tapahonso, spokeswoman for Haskell, said she thought the summit would inspire people to discuss their concerns.

"We're hoping that people on both sides will feel free to ask questions that maybe they've been afraid to ask before," Tapahonso said. "We all live in Lawrence, and there are a lot of ways to help each other. I don't know that we've ever had a forum where we could ask questions of each other."

The summit will be built around a play consisting primarily of readings, written by award-winning playwright Ping Chong. The play, "Native Voices -- Secret History," is based on interviews Chong conducted with American Indians in Lawrence. Some of those he interviewed will be in the play. Tapahonso is one of them.

"This project just correlates so well with the summit," Tapahonso said. "I think a lot of talking points will come out of the production, and it will be a good springboard for the panel discussion," which will follow the play.

The summit also will feature two guest speakers. One is Iris Heavyrunner, adjunct professor and a special project coordinator at the University of Montana. She was selected as a 2001 National Institute on Native Leadership in Higher Education Fellow.

Also speaking will be Luci Tapahonso, professor at the University of Arizona, where she teaches poetry and American Indian literature. She previously worked as an associate professor of English at KU from 1989 to 1999. Her book "Blue Horses Rush In" is this year's Read Across Lawrence book selection Luci Tapahonso is Lori Tapahonso's mother.

The summit begins at 4:30 p.m. with openings by Luci Tapahonso and Heavyrunner. There will be a break from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. when the Native Voice production takes place. It will be followed by the panel discussion from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Earlier, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a walking tour of the Haskell campus and museum.

The summit is a ticketed event, and the Native Voices play is part of the Lied Center's season show schedule. Ticket prices range from $28, which is part of the Lied Center season ticket package, to $14 for a ticket just for the summit and Native Voices play. For ticket information, call the Lied Center, 864-2787 or go online at

Bert Nash also has complimentary tickets for the summit. To obtain them, call the center at 785-843-9192 or go to

A play primarily consisting of readings and based on interviews conducted with American Indians in Lawrence, "Native Voices -- Secret History," will include the following cast, with their tribal designations.¢ Russell Blackbird, Omaha and Cheyenne River Sioux.¢ Carly Blemmel, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.¢ Dennison Dugi, Dine (Navajo).¢ Dianne Yeahquo Reyner, Kiowa.¢ Lori Tapahonso, Dine (Navajo).A panel discussion will follow the play. It will be moderated by Bob Martin, former president of Haskell Junior College. Panel members will be:¢ Venida Chenault, vice president academic affairs, Haskell.¢ Rod Bremby, president of Lawrence Alliance for Youth.¢ Bonnie Low, president of First Bank.¢ Ron Olin, Lawrence police chief.¢ Steve Ramirez, equal opportunity specialist at Kansas University.¢ Dan Wildcat, chairman of American Indian studies at Haskell.

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